Brain Tumor Treatment Options
Treatment for brain tumors usually involves some combination of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and other modalities such as tumor treatment fields (TTF) or clinical trials (experimental therapies).
There are several reasons surgery may be performed for brain tumors:
- To biopsy the tumor tissue for accurate diagnosis
- To remove the entire tumor or at least as much of it as possible
- To help relieve pressure on the brain being caused by the tumor
Surgery is the preferred initial treatment for brain tumors that can be removed without causing significant damage to normal brain tissue. Depending on the location of the tumor within the brain, it may be possible to perform an operation called a craniotomy to remove a large amount of the tumor. Tumors deep in the brain, which may be difficult to reach surgically, can be safely operated on using neuro-navigation system.
Radiation therapy, either in conventional form or focused radiation (also called stereotactic radiosurgery), is often the next step in the treatment plan for tumors that are either partially or entirely surgically irremovable. Radiation therapy uses beams of energy to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells. At Lahey, we use a modified linear accelerator to deliver targeted radiation to areas deep within the brain without injuring the surrounding brain structures. This treatment is available at Lahey Burlington and Lahey Peabody.
Chemotherapy and Tumor Treating Fields
For certain brain tumors, chemotherapy (drugs that kill tumor cells or slow tumor growth) may be recommended. Most chemotherapeutic drugs are given intravenously or orally. Malignant gliomas may also be treated with a therapy call tumor treating fields (TTF) which deliver alternating electrical fields to the tumor through a device worn on the head.
Brain Tumor Conference (BTC)
Each week, MRI and pathology data is presented at a brain tumor conference (BTC) and reviewed with the clinical team to provide a multidisciplinary care plan for each patient. This typically involves the neurosurgeon, neuro-oncologist (who prescribes chemotherapies), the radiation oncologist, the neuropathologist, and the neuro radiologist. A treatment plan is presented to the patient at their appointment with side effects of treatment and quality of life being important points of discussion.
From there, the patient and their doctors decide on an individualized care plan. For patients wishing to consider experimental treatment options, we work with our colleagues at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center or other major cancer centers in Boston to arrange consultations.