Treatments

A diagnosis of brain cancer means you will need to make a number of decisions about treatment.

In this section, you can find out more about the different treatments available, including:

Try to gather as much information as possible about your treatment options and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You need good information to make the best decisions for your health.

Your treatment options will vary depending on the size and location of the tumour, as well as your overall health. Remember, everyone is different and your doctor will focus on the best treatment options to suit you.

Treatment for brain cancer usually involves surgery to remove the tumour, but some people may also require radiation therapy, chemotherapy and/or targeted therapies.

Surgery

Surgery for brain cancer aims to remove as much of the tumour or cancerous cells as possible. This involves the surgeon opening the skull to remove the tumour. It may be possible for the surgeon to do this by using keyhole surgery, but if not, open surgery will be used.

The length of time it takes to recover from surgery will vary. You are likely to be in hospital for a few days and to be sore for some time. Surgery for brain cancer is a major operation so you’ll need to take things easy for a while.

Radiation Therapy

After surgery, many people with a brain cancer may have radiation treatment. This helps to kill any cancer cells that were not removed during surgery.

You will also likely have radiation therapy if surgery is not a treatment option for the brain tumour.

Radiation therapy uses high energy x-ray beams to kill the cancer cells and is delivered by a special machine which directs the x-ray beams to the tumour site. Treatment is generally given every day for a period of weeks.

As with any treatment, you may experience side-effects during radiation therapy. Side-effects may affect you no matter which area of the body you’re having radiotherapy to. Some side-effects are more common than others. These can include:

  • Skin irritation
  • Tiredness (fatigue)
  • Feeling sick (nausea or vomiting)
  • Problems with eating and drinking
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Hair loss

If you experience any side effects during radiation treatment, tell your medical team. They are in the best position to help you manage any side-effects.

Chemotherapy

Surgery for brain cancer is often followed by chemotherapy. Chemotherapy medicines work to destroy the cancer cells or control their growth. When you have chemotherapy, you are usually given a combination of two or more medicines intravenously (through the vein). Chemotherapy is most commonly given every three to four weeks over a period of several months.

Chemotherapy kills rapidly growing cells like cancer cells, but can also kill other healthy cells that grow quickly, such as those in the bone marrow, digestive tract and hair follicles. Chemotherapy treatment can lead to a number of side-effects, including:

  • Feeling sick (nausea and vomiting)
  • Hair loss,
  • Tiredness (fatigue)
  • Increased risk of infection.

If you’re experiencing side-effects as a result of chemotherapy, speak to your medical team about the best way to manage these. There are medicines that can be used to effectively control or minimise side-effects.