Sarah Cannon - May 25, 2022

A brain cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. You may be worried about your prognosis, treatment options, and potential side effects. Here is what you should know about the treatment options for brain cancer.

First, if you’ve been diagnosed with a brain tumor, your treatment options will depend on: 

  • The location of your tumor
  • The grade of the tumor
  • Your overall health and age

Treatment options for brain cancer may include:

  • Active surveillance
  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy

Active surveillance for brain cancer

Active surveillance is when your doctor closely monitors your tumor through regular tests and exams, but doesn’t provide treatment unless your condition worsens. Your oncologist may recommend active surveillance if your tumor doesn’t cause symptoms and is slow-growing.

Active surveillance can help you avoid or delay surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, which can cause side effects.

Surgery for brain cancer

Many brain cancers are diagnosed and treated with surgery. Sometimes, surgery is used to relieve pressure on your brain caused by a tumor. Other times, it’s used to obtain a tumor tissue sample (biopsy) or remove all or as much of the tumor as possible.

If you have remaining cancer cells after surgery, you may need radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy to destroy the cancer cells.

Radiation therapy for brain cancer

Your oncologist may recommend radiation after surgery to destroy any remaining cancer cells or keep them from growing. Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays and other forms of radiation to kill cancer cells.

Chemotherapy for brain cancer

Chemotherapy is a treatment used to kill cancer cells or stop them from dividing. It’s typically given orally by pill or intravenously through infusions. Your doctor may recommend chemotherapy before surgery or radiation to help shrink your tumor. Sometimes, chemotherapy is delivered directly to the tumor during surgery.

Targeted therapy for brain cancer

Targeted therapy is another treatment option for brain cancer. Targeted therapy uses drugs or other substances to search for and kill certain cancer cells. Generally, targeted therapy causes less harm to healthy cells than chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Targeted therapy options for brain cancer include: 

  • Monoclonal antibody therapy: Monoclonal antibodies are immune system proteins made in a lab. This therapy is given intravenously (through a vein). These antibodies attach to a specific target on cancer cells or other cells in the body. The antibodies then destroy the cancer cells, stop them from spreading, or prevent them from growing. Monoclonal therapy may be used alone or to transport other substances or drugs to cancer cells.
  • Bevacizumab: Bevacizumab is a targeted therapy specifically for glioblastoma, an aggressive, high-grade form of brain cancer. It helps stop the growth of new blood vessels that tumors need to grow.

Clinical trials for brain cancer

Your oncologist may recommend a clinical trial to treat your brain tumor. Clinical trials are research studies designed to study new cancer treatments or improve current treatments. Clinical trials offer you the standard of care or better and can give you access to promising new therapies before they’re available to the public.

To learn more about clinical trials, visit the Clinical Trials section of the Sarah Cannon Blog.

Supportive care for brain cancer

If you have brain cancer, you may also benefit from supportive care to reduce side effects caused by the tumor or treatments. Supportive care can include: 

  • Medications to control seizures, fluid buildup, or swelling in the brain
  • Counseling for emotional and spiritual support
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Nutrition counseling

Ask your oncologist and/or nurse navigator which supportive care resources are available to you.

If you have questions about brain cancer, call askSARAH at 844-482-4812 or visit askSARAH online.