There are several categories of nonsurgical or partially surgical treatments for brain tumors. Surgery is always the first choice, but it may not be possible or complete by itself. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments may be used, as well as other treatments, such as:

  • Heat
  • Biologic treatments

For Managing Inoperable or Residual Brain Tumor


Biological Approaches

  • Genetic targets
  • Cytokines
  • Immunotherapy


Heat destroys tissue. Several characteristics of tumors make them more susceptible to heat damage than the surrounding normal tissue. 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. To date, the use of heat remains investigational only in the management of brain tumors.

Biological Approaches

Biological therapies are those that methods that do not necessarily directly destroy tumor cells by disabling their cell cycle or cell division (the mechanism by which typical cytotoxic chemotherapy works). Biological agents usually work by stimulating the immune system to recognize a cancer as foreign—a target for the body to attack.

Genetic Targets

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 disable 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. These drugs are called angiogenesis inhibitors.


Immunotherapy represents an active area of cancer research today. Included in this arena is the development of cancer vaccines and immunomodulating agents (such as interferons and interleukins), which may stimulate the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells. In other tumors, such as lymphomas, the development of antibodies directed against specific proteins found on the cancer cells has proven to be particularly effective. Although, immunotherapies have not yet demonstrated efficacy in the treatment of brain tumors.

For Managing Residual Effects of Brain Tumors

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 improve lost functions. Improving quality of life with directed rehabilitation techniques can be a worthwhile endeavor.

Rehabilitation Therapy

Rehabilitation therapy includes:

  • Physical therapy helps with walking, balance, and building strength.
  • Occupational therapy helps with mastering life skills, such as writing, dressing, eating, and using the toilet.
  • Speech therapy helps with the physical elements of speech, such as tongue movement and regulating breathing during speech. Speech therapists also often address swallowing dysfunction, as well..
  • Skilled nursing care is an option if daily living becomes impossible.

When to Contact Your Healthcare Provider

For people with brain tumors, everything that happens physically is potentially useful information. Keep communication lines open and contact your physician whenever something changes with your condition.