Other Treatments for Brain Tumors
When surgery is not possible or not sufficient by itself, there are several categories of non-surgical or partially surgical treatments for brain tumors. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments may be used, as well as other treatments such as:
Heat destroys tissue. Several characteristics of tumors make them more susceptible to heat damage than the surrounding normal tissues.
There are several effective ways to direct heat into tumors. Radiofrequency, microwave, ultrasound, and electromagnetic devices adapted to the task constitute an active area of research. Combined with surgical approaches and computerized mapping, these methods may provide effective new treatments.
Biologic therapy is a treatment that uses drugs to improve the way your body’s immune system fights disease. Your immune system is your body’s natural defense against disease. A healthy and strong immune system can detect the difference between healthy cells and cancer cells. Biological therapy attempts to repair, stimulate, or enhance the immune system so that it can fight the cancer more effectively. These therapies can be used to fight cancer or to lessen the side effects that may be caused by some cancer treatments.
A few of the most active areas of investigation in biological approaches to brain cancer treatment are:
Cancers all seem to require genetic damage to gain a foothold in the body. The cells either change to escape normal growth controls or the body loses an ability to control their growth. New techniques are under investigation that will repair damaged genes and incapacitate genes that facilitate tumor growth.
A number of hormones known as cytokines help your body fight disease and play a role in cell growth and destruction. Manipulating these cytokines has already proved useful in treating several chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Among the promising cytokine treatments for treating brain tumors are agents that will prevent a cancer from generating its own blood supply, as well as others agents that will encourage tumor cells to die.
The body's immune system is constantly searching for cancer cells to destroy. We now understand enough about the immune system to improve the accuracy of the search. Tumor-specific antibodies and enhancements to overall immune function are becoming available.
For more information on the use of biologic therapy for cancer treatment, see the biologic therapy treatment monograph.
Brain tissue may be damaged by your tumor or the techniques used to treat it. After your primary treatment plan is completed or well under way, you may be referred to rehabilitation to reestablish lost functions. This is hard work, but the reward is improved quality of life.
Rehabilitation therapy includes:
- Physical therapy, which helps with walking, balance, and building strength.
- Occupational therapy, which helps with mastering life skills, such as writing, dressing, eating, and personal hygiene.
- Speech therapy, which helps you express thoughts and overcome swallowing difficulties.
When to Contact Your Health Care Provider
For people with brain tumors, everything that happens physically is potentially useful information. Keep a diary of any changes and speak regularly with your doctors.
International Radiosurgery Support Association
American Physical Therapy Association
American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA)
American Brain Tumor Association
Brain Tumor Society
Childhood Brain Tumor Foundation
National Brain Tumor Foundation (NBTF)
Last reviewed February 2003 by Jondavid Pollock, MD, PhD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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