If you are diagnosed with a brain tumor, your doctor will discuss the best options to treat it. This depends on several factors, including the location and type of the cancer and your general health.
Your treatment for a brain tumor will be customized to your particular needs. One or more of the following therapies may be recommended to treat the cancer or help relieve symptoms.
Surgery usually is the first treatment for brain tumors. Even when complete removal is not possible surgery may be able to:
- Help reduce the tumor’s size
- Relieve symptoms
- Help doctors decide what other treatments are needed
The most common surgery for brain tumors is craniotomy, which involves opening the skull. Some brain tumors can be removed with little or no damage to the brain. However, many grow in areas that make them difficult or impossible to remove without destroying important parts of the brain.
When a brain tumor is in a challenging location, our neurosurgeons can use this innovative open MRI system that allows them to view the tumor during surgery. This helps them remove as much of the tumor as possible without damaging other parts of the brain. MD Anderson’s Brainsuite is the first in the world of its type.
Radiation therapy may be able to stop or slow the growth of brain tumors that cannot be removed with surgery. It may be used:
- With chemotherapy to help the radiation work better or lessen effect on normal parts of the brain
- With targeted therapies to destroy remaining cancer cells
New radiation therapy techniques and remarkable skill allow MD Anderson doctors to target brain tumors more precisely, delivering the maximum amount of radiation with the least damage to healthy cells.
MD Anderson uses the most advanced radiation treatment methods, including:
- Gamma Knife radiosurgery, which is not really surgery. It delivers a pinpoint dose of radiation from hundreds of angles.
- Focused radiation therapy, which is aimed directly at the tumor and immediately surrounding area
- Whole-brain radiation therapy, which may be needed if you have two or more brain tumors in different locations
- Intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT), which shapes the radiation beam to the shape of the brain tumor and lessens exposure to the rest of the brain
- Proton therapy
The Proton Therapy Center at MD Anderson is one of the largest and most advanced centers in the world. It’s the only proton therapy facility in the country within a comprehensive cancer center.
Proton therapy delivers high radiation doses directly to the brain tumor site, with no damage to nearby healthy tissue. It may be used to treat tumors in very sensitive areas, including in the skull base and along the spine.
Laser Interstitial Thermal Therapy
Laser interstitial thermal therapy (LITT) is performed by implanting a laser catheter into the tumor and heating it to temperatures high enough to kill the tumor.
The treatment is minimally invasive, often requiring little more than a 2-millimeter incision in the scalp, and takes just a few minutes to perform. Most patients can go home the day after treatment and can quickly return to normal activities.
LITT is currently being used to treat patients with primary and metastatic brain tumors, but can also help patients who do not respond to stereotactic radiosurgery or have radiation necrosis (tissue death caused by radiation treatment).
MD Anderson offers the most up-to-date and advanced chemotherapy options for brain tumors. These drugs may be taken orally or by injection. They may be given alone or with other treatments.
Chemotherapy often is not as effective for brain cancer as some other types of cancer. This is because of the blood-brain barrier, small blood vessels in the brain and spinal cord that protect the brain from harmful substances. They also may act as a shield against chemotherapy drugs.
These new drugs target the specific gene changes that cause cancer. MD Anderson is at the forefront of discovering these agents. Many of our brain tumor clinical trials include analysis of the molecular profiles of patients' tumors.
MD Anderson patients have access to clinical trials offering promising new treatments that cannot be found anywhere else.
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