Your team of specialised health professionals, called the MDT (Multi-Disciplinary Team) will tailor your treatment to provide the treatment that is the best for you. They will consider factors, such as:
- your individual diagnosis
- your general health
- size and location of the tumour
- type of tumour
- how quickly it is growing
- your age
This could mean that you meet other patients who have the same tumour but who are receiving different treatments.
Watch and wait
For some low grade, slow growing tumours that are unlikely to spread, you may not be given any immediate treatment at all and a ‘watch and wait’ approach may be used. This means closely monitoring your condition without giving any treatment unless symptoms develop, or worsen, or your scan changes.
For other tumours, you are likely to receive one or more of the following types of treatment.
One of the main treatment options is surgery to remove it, either completely or as much of it as possible.
Surgery can have several purposes:
- diagnosis of tumour type
- whole or partial removal of the tumour
- insertion of chemotherapy drugs directly into the brain
- reduction of associated conditions, such as a build-up of the cerebrospinal fluid
Depending on where in the brain the tumour is, surgery is not always possible or necessary.
Radiotherapy uses controlled doses of high energy beams to destroy tumour cells whilst causing as little damage as possible to surrounding cells.
It may be used:
- where surgery isn’t possible
- after surgery to kill any remaining tumour cells
- to prevent a tumour from returning
- to slow down the growth of the tumour.
Common side-effects include:
- Hair loss
- Feeling nauseous
- Skin sensitivity – take care in the sun
These effects are usually temporary.
This is the use of drugs to destroy tumour cells by disturbing their growth. Chemotherapy is sometimes used on its own, sometimes together with radiotherapy, or it may be used before or after surgery.
Chemotherapy may be given:
- Before surgery to shrink a tumour to make it easier to operate on
- During or after surgery to kill small amounts of cells that haven’t been removed, in order to reduce the
- chance of the tumour returning
- To treat a tumour that has returned
- To shrink a tumour that cannot be operated on
- To prevent further growth of a tumour
- Prior to radiotherapy.
Typically a course of treatment may last 3-6 months, consisting of 4-8 cycles. You may have chemotherapy for a few days every few weeks.
One of the key functions of steroids in the treatment of brain tumours is to reduce inflammation/swelling and ease associated symptoms, such as headaches.
They are also used to protect the brain at the time of surgery, and to treat nausea, which some people experience when having radiotherapy or chemotherapy.
Steroids, therefore, help with symptom management rather than treating the tumour itself.
Proton Beam Therapy
A targeted radiotherapy in which fewer healthy cells receive a dose of radiation. It is not suitable for all types of tumour.
Complementary therapies are therapies which can be used alongside conventional (approved) anti-tumour treatments to help improve your mental and/or physical well-being.
People affected by brain tumours use them to help manage the effects of having a brain tumour and the side-effects caused by medical treatments.
Here are some therapies people affected by a brain tumour often find helpful:
Some people find that acupuncture helps them with:
- controlling pain
- dry mouth
- hot flushes
Acupuncture is thought to work by releasing natural morphine-like substances in the body, such as endorphins, which can ease symptoms.
Aromatherapy involves the use of herbal oils such as lavender, rosemary, eucalyptus and camomile. The essential oils can be:
- rubbed onto your skin during a massage session
- added to a warm bath
- added with water to an aromatherapy oil diffuser, so the vapour spreads the aroma into the air. The oils are absorbed through the skin (when rubbed) and/or through the nose (when you inhale them as vapour).
People have reported that aromatherapy helps them cope with:
A certified aromatherapist can guide you through the variety of essential oils used and suggest which might be more appropriate for you.
Massage therapy and reflexology
People usually have massage therapy or reflexology to help manage physical symptoms such as pain, muscle stiffness, breathlessness and/or emotions such as stress and anxiety. In massage therapy, a trained therapist will use their hands to rub your muscles. Reflexology involves gentle pressures on the feet or sometimes the hands.