Brain cancer can be treated with surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy or steroid therapy, or a combination of these treatments. The type of treatment will depend on several factors including the stage of the disease, the severity of symptoms and the general health of the patient.
Types of brain surgery:
- Craniotomy; the tumour is removed completely.
- Shunts; if a fluid build-up in the brain is a problem, the surgeon may put in a small permanent tube just under the skin, called a shunt, to take the extra fluid from the brain into the abdomen.
- Biopsy; a portion of the tumour is removed and looked at under a microscope to see what type of tumour the patient has.
Some tumours can be removed completely by surgery (craniotomy). If a tumour has spread, or if it cannot be removed without damaging other important parts of the brain, the surgeon may still be able to remove part of the tumour, which will improve symptoms and quality of life by reducing the pressure on the rest of the brain.
Radiotherapy (x-rays that kill or injure cancer cells so they cannot multiply) is then used after the operation to help control tumour re-growth and help improve survival.
For glioblastomas, an oral chemotherapy drug called ‘temozolomide’ may be added during or after radiotherapy treatment to further improve the patient’s outcome.
Other chemotherapy schedules may also be used to enhance treatment of the brain cancer.
In the event that the tumour cannot be removed by surgery, the aim of treatment is to slow the tumour growth and relieve symptoms by shrinking the tumour.