A patient’s brain cancer treatment plan may incorporate several different therapies depending on the type of cancer, as well as the size and the grade of the tumor. Additionally, the treatment plan will also take into account a patient’s age, general health and prior medical history. Below, we explain the goals of brain cancer treatment, explore some of the most common types of treatment for brain cancer and discuss whether brain cancer is curable.
What are the goals of brain cancer treatment?
In most cases, brain cancer treatment has several goals:
- To remove as much of a tumor as possible through a "maximal safe resection" (neurosurgery)
- To kill cancerous cells or prevent the tumor from growing larger with use of radiation therapy, chemotherapy and other biological therapy options
- To improve a patient’s prognosis, reduce symptoms and improve quality of life, through a combination of treatments and supportive care
Common types of treatment for brain cancer
As was noted above, brain cancer treatment will vary from one patient to another based on factors such as the type of brain cancer present, the tumor’s size and grade and the patient’s age and overall health. Some of the most common treatments for brain cancer include neurosurgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
In many cases, surgery is the first line of treatment for brain cancer (and in some cases, such as when there’s a low-grade tumor or one that can be completely removed, it may be the only treatment necessary). During brain cancer surgery, the surgeon typically removes the tumor and some of the healthy tissue surrounding it. If the surgeon isn’t able to remove the entire tumor during surgery, then the patient may need to undergo radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy to treat the remaining portion of the malignancy.
During radiation therapy for brain cancer, an oncologist uses high-energy X-rays or other particles to destroy the patient’s brain tumor. Radiation therapy is most commonly administered externally (external-beam radiation therapy), but in some cases it can be given internally using implants (brachytherapy or internal radiation therapy). The oncologist will try to avoid exposing healthy brain tissue to radiation, but in some instances, patients may experience side effects such as fatigue, hair loss, nausea, memory problems or a skin reaction.
Chemotherapy for brain cancer involves using drugs to destroy tumor cells and prevent them from growing and dividing. In addition to slowing the growth of a brain tumor, this can also help relieve a patient’s symptoms. As with radiation therapy, chemotherapy can sometimes produce side effects, including fatigue, hair loss, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Is brain cancer curable?
Many patients wonder whether brain cancer can be cured. In some cases—such as when a malignancy is diagnosed in its early stages—brain cancer is curable. With that said, the outlook for brain cancer will vary from one person to another based on factors like the size and grade of the tumor and where it’s located within the brain. It’s also important to keep in mind that even when brain cancer is cured, it’s still possible for the malignancy to return at a later time.
When you meet with an experienced provider specializing in brain cancer treatment—such as those at Moffitt Cancer Center—they’ll be able to provide you with information that’s tailored to your specific situation. They’ll let you know what the chances are of curing your brain cancer, and they’ll also recommend the course of treatment that’s best suited to your specific condition, lifestyle and personal preferences.
Brain cancer treatment at Moffitt
At Moffitt Cancer Center, we create and utilize some of the most advanced treatments to help us achieve these goals for all brain tumor types. Our Neuro-Oncology Program takes a comprehensive approach to precision medicine. Depending on a patient’s specific needs, we may recommend:
- Neurosurgery, performed by skilled neurosurgeons to remove as much of the cancerous lesion as possible without damaging healthy brain or spinal tissue. We utilize a number of advanced surgical techniques, including awake craniotomies and MRI-guided laser ablation, and we perform many complex surgeries.
- Radiation therapy, with options such as three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy, stereotactic radiosurgery and intensity-modulated radiation therapy to help deliver radiation to a tumor while sparing essential gray matter.
- Chemotherapy, including intravenous and oral agents, as well as intrathecal chemotherapy, in which drugs are delivered directly into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.
- Biological, immunological, genetic and hormone therapies, including anti-angiogenic agents, interferon and interleukin therapy, viral gene, antisense therapy and treatments that target anti-estrogen and anti-progesterone receptors.
Additionally, Moffitt is widely known for its robust clinical trial program, which allows participants to benefit from the latest brain cancer treatment options before they are available elsewhere. No matter what challenges our patients are facing, our experienced, multispecialty team will help them identify the best options for their unique needs. No referral is required to receive treatment from physicians in our Neuro-Oncology Program.
To learn more about treatment for brain cancer at Moffitt Cancer Center, complete a new patient registration form or call 1-888-663-3488. We take pride in offering exceptionally fast turnaround times—you can expect to be connected to a cancer expert within just one day after you reach out—and we look forward to speaking with you.
Medically reviewed by Dr. Michael Vogelbaum, Program Leader, Department of Neuro-Oncology.
Cancer.Net: Brain Tumor: Types of Treatment
United Kingdom National Health Service: Malignant Brain Tumor (Brain Cancer)