Brain cancer is the growth of abnormal brain cells. These cells damage nearby healthy cells. Tumors can also press on the brain and cause symptoms. This makes it hard for the brain to work the way it is supposed to.
General treatment options may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy (chemo), or other medicine. Other treatments can help with speech, walking, or other problems.
Steps to Take
Brain cancer is graded from 1 to 4. Grade 1 is the slowest growing and may not spread. Grade 4 grows and spreads the fastest.
Testing will help find the grade of brain cancer. This helps with finding the best treatment. It may include:
- Imaging tests—Helps find the type of cancer based on how it looks on the screen.
- Biopsy—Tissue is removed and looked at in a lab.
Treatment depends on the type of brain cancer, its grade, and where it is found. It may include 1 or more of these:
- Surgery to remove part or all cancer if it can be done
- Radiation to kill leftover cancer from surgery, slow or shrink the tumor, or ease symptoms caused by the tumor
- Chemo to slow growth or shrink the cancer
- Medicine to ease brain swelling, prevent seizures, prevent blood clots or other problems caused by the cancer
Some brain cancers cannot be treated. Treatment may focus on comfort measures and having as good a quality of life as possible.
Your care team will help with:
- Alternative therapies to ease symptoms
- Relaxation therapies to lower stress
- Changing your daily routine if you are tired because of treatments
A brain cancer diagnosis and treatment can be stressful. Seek support from people in your family, friends, counselors, and support groups. Ask your care team about programs close to where you live.
Palliative care may also be recommended. This is a special team that help people who have serious illnesses. They can help you guide care according to your wishes and suggest support options.
Tests are done to check the cancer and how treatment is working. Treatment may be changed based on test results. It is important to go to all recommended appointments.
Call Your Doctor If Any of the Following Occur
Call your doctor if you are not getting better or you have:
- Headaches—usually worse in the morning and worsen over time
- Lasting nausea or vomiting
- Weakness or twitching in the arms or legs
- Loss of feeling in arms or legs
- Body swelling
- Problems with:
- Personality changes
- Signs of infection such as fever or chills
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Brain Tumor Association https://www.abta.org
American Cancer Society https://www.cancer.org
Canadian Cancer Society http://www.cancer.ca
Cancer Care Ontario https://www.cancercareontario.ca
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- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Nicole Meregian, PA
- Review Date: 05/2020
- Update Date: 06/30/2020