Brain cancer can affect any part of the brain. Brain cancer often starts as a tumor, which is merely an overgrowth of damaged cellular structures. Treatment for brain cancers will depend on the type of cancer, whether or not the cancer is a primary, localized tumor, or whether the tumor growth has spread throughout the brain, in a process called metastasis. In addition, the location, size and type of tumor will also affect the type of cancer treatment a person may receive.
Traditional cancer treatments include radiation and chemotherapy. If the brain cancer or tumor is easily accessible, surgery may also be an option. The goal of brain surgery is to attempt to remove as much of the tumor as possible without causing damage to surrounding brain tissues. Individuals who undergo brain surgery, where more than 90% of the tumor is removed, often experience a greater prognosis and those who don't.
Chemotherapy is a procedure that is commonly used to treat cancer in a patient and is often performed before or after a surgery, designed to kill cancerous cells or tumors. The procedure can also be performed on an individual who is undergoing radiation therapy. Some doctors use chemotherapy alone, depending on the severity of the cancer. One form of chemotherapy is through a pill or liquid in the form of an IV.
Radiation therapy utilizes the use of high energy beams to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy is often used before and after surgery in conjunction with chemotherapy. Radiation therapy is performed either from outside the body (external beam radiation) or from inside the body through the use of radioactive pellets in a procedure called brachytherapy.
Targeted drugs are designed to attack specific abnormalities or malformations found in cancer cells. The most common drug therapy uses Tarceva (generic term erlotinib), designed to block cell signals to grow and divide. Another drug currently involved in clinical trials is Erbitux (generic term cetuximab).
Newer technologies, such as intraoperative MRIs, brain mapping, stereostatic radiosurgery technology, and Gamma Knife technologies offer more precise surgical options and more positive prognosis, depending on the stage of cancer being treated.
Individuals diagnosed with gliomas, or tumors which originate in the brain, as well as those diagnosed with meningiomas, or benign tumors found within the protective lining of the brain, and children who experience brain tumors may benefit from a variety of cancer treatment technologies, either offered separately or combined.
An oncologist is a physician or surgeon who specializes in cancer, cancer therapies and treatments. Cancer centers are accredited and meet high standards of care and state and federal requirements. All doctors, oncologists and staff should be knowledgeable in the type of cancer a patient is suffering from. Choose cancer treatment facilities that have shown experience with cancer patients, and seek a second opinion for treatments from other cancer specialists if desired.
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