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Brain Cancer Treatment

Side Effects

Treating brain cancer may damage healthy cells and tissues, which may lead to unwanted side effects. Specific side effects will depend on many factors, including the type and extent of the treatment. Side effects may not be the same for each person, and they may even change from one treatment session to the next. Healthcare providers should explain possible side effects and suggest ways to manage them before treatment begins.
Some childhood treatments for brain cancer cause side effects that continue or appear years after cancer treatment has ended. These are called late effects. Late effects of cancer treatment may include:
  • Physical problems
  • Changes in mood, feelings, thinking, learning, or memory
  • Second cancer (new types of cancer).
Some late effects can be treated or controlled.

Supportive Care for Brain Cancer Treatment

The treatment of brain cancer can lead to other health problems. Supportive care can help patients prevent or control these problems and improve their comfort and quality of life during treatment.
Common types of supportive care for brain cancer include:
  • Steroids -- Most patients with brain tumors need steroids to help relieve swelling of the brain.
  • Anticonvulsant medicine -- Brain tumors can cause seizures, which is why patients may need anticonvulsant medicine to prevent or control seizures.
  • Shunt -- If fluid builds up in the brain, the surgeon may place a shunt to drain the fluid.
  • Antibiotics -- People with brain cancer tend to develop infections easily, which is why antibiotics and other drugs may be needed. If an infection develops, it can be serious and should be treated promptly.
  • Transfusions -- Anemia and bleeding are other problems that often require supportive care. Patients with brain cancer may need transfusions of red blood cells to help them have more energy, or platelet transfusions to help reduce the risk of serious bleeding.
  • Dental care -- Dental care also is important. Chemotherapy can make the mouth sensitive, easily infected, and likely to bleed. Doctors often advise patients to have a complete dental exam and, if possible, undergo needed dental care before chemotherapy begins. Dentists should show patients how to keep their mouth clean and healthy during treatment.
Many people with brain tumors receive supportive care along with other treatments that are intended to slow down the progression of the disease. However, some patients with brain cancer decide that they only want to receive supportive care to manage their symptoms and do not want to have anti-tumor treatment.
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