Brain Tumors Overview
A brain tumor is a group of abnormal cells that grows in or around your brain. Tumors can directly destroy healthy brain cells. They can also indirectly damage healthy cells of brain by crowding other parts of the brain and causing inflammation, brain swelling and pressure within the skull.
Brain tumors are either malignant or benign. A malignant tumor, also called brain cancer, grows rapidly and often invades or crowds healthy areas of patient’s brain. Benign brain tumors do not contain cancer cells and are usually slow growing disease.
Brain tumors fall into two different categories: First is primary and second is metastatic. Primary brain tumors begin within the brain. A metastatic brain tumor is formed when cancer cells located elsewhere in the body break away and travel to the brain.
If a brain tumor is determined malignant, the tumor cells are examined under a microscope to determine how malignant they are. Based on this analysis, tumors are rated, or graded, by their level of malignancy from least to most malignant. Factors that determine the tumor grade include how fast the cells are growing, how much blood is supplying the cells, the presence of dead cells in the middle of the tumor, if the cells are confined to a specific area, and how similar the cancerous cells are to normal cells.
Improving Quality of Life living for People with Brain Cancer
The coordination between specialists was on full display. Everyone agreed that one patient needed physical therapy. But a social worker, after talking with the patient about family life, suggested an outpatient facility might be more productive than home visits.
Doctors felt another patient needed home care assistance. But the health insurance company was resistant. Other specialists hadn’t known about this option.
What are my treatment options?
A variety of therapies are used to treat brain tumors. The type of treatment recommended depends on the size and type of the tumor, its growth rate, brain location, and the general health of the patient. Treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted biological agents, or a combination of these. Surgical resection (if safe) is generally the first treatment recommendation to reduce pressure in the brain rapidly. This website focuses on radiation therapy for brain tumors.
Radiation therapy may be advised for tumors that are sensitive to this treatment. The therapy is usually given over a period of several weeks.
Types of radiation therapy include:
- Intensity-modulated radiation therapy : an advanced mode of high-precision radiotherapy that utilizes computer-controlled x-ray accelerators to deliver precise radiation doses to a malignant tumor or specific areas within the brain tumor. Now, The radiation dose is designed to conform to the three-dimensional (3-D) shape of the tumor by modulating—or controlling—the intensity of the radiation beam to focus a higher radiation dose to the tumor while minimizing radiation exposure to healthy cells. See the IMRT page for more information.
- Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS): a highly precise form of radiation therapy that directs narrow beams of radiation to the tumor from different angles. The Computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) help the doctor identify the tumor’s exact location and a computer helps the doctor regulate the dose of radiation,that are most useful. Stereotactic radiotherapy is similar physically to radiosurgery but involves fractionation (multiple treatments).
- Three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT): a conventional form of radiation treatment delivery that uses a specific arrangement of x-ray beams designed to conform to the shape of the tumor to maximize tumor dose and minimize normal surrounding tissue dose after discussing with your healthcare specalist.
- Brachytherapy: the temporary placement of radioactive source(s) within the body, usually employed to give an extra dose—or boost—of radiation to the area of the excision site or to any residual tumor. See the Brachytherapy page for more information.
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