With your upcoming metastasis brain cancer treatment on the horizon, it can be helpful to prepare beforehand to ensure your procedure and recovery are as smooth as possible. There are some steps you can take regardless of which type of metastasis brain cancer treatment you are having, but there are also some specific to your mode of therapy. Be sure to discuss the particulars with your healthcare team so you know exactly what they recommend for you, based upon your individual condition.
If your treatment plan includes surgery to remove your tumor and your case is particularly urgent, you may not have much time to make preparations beforehand. However, there are still steps you can take that are not overly time-consuming and that can help ease your recovery.
If you are on any prescription medications or receiving other cancer treatment, you may need to stop a certain amount of time before your surgery. Your health care team will make any recommendations, which you must carefully follow. Never start or stop prescribed medications on your own.
The procedure itself takes two to four hours. Understand that if your surgeon feels that removing your tumor will result in neurological deficits, such as loss of speech or the ability to walk, he or she will not operate. However, any seizures or weakness you may experience will improve with time following surgery.
You can expect to spend approximately three days in the hospital following your surgery, though this is dependent upon your overall health and can vary. The first night will be spent in the ICU, where your health care team will monitor your progress.
The next morning, you will be wide awake and may even be surprised by how you are able to do everything you could prior to surgery. Your pain should be minimal and likely managed with Tylenol. This is because there are no pain receptors in the brain, so the surgery is typically tolerated very well.
That day, any tubes will be removed, and you will be transferred to a regular hospital unit from the ICU. You can expect to head home the next day, with activity restrictions for about two weeks. Some patients will require physical therapy and/or adjunct treatment, but that will be on a patient-by-patient basis.
If your doctor has recommended stereotactic radiosurgery, then your treatment will not require a hospital stay or recovery in quite the same manner. However, your procedure will take about half a day, and you may need to arrange for a ride home.
You may be asked to modify your medication regimen. Again, follow your provider’s instructions exactly and never make modifications on your own. This is for your comfort and safety, so again, be sure to follow any directions you are given.
Unlike traditional surgery, you will not be asked to refrain from eating or drinking before treatment.
Your health care team will discuss your recovery plan with you, but because of the minimally invasive nature of stereotactic radiosurgery, the recovery time is relatively short and you should experience fewer side effects than you would with traditional radiation therapy.
Whole Brain Radiation
With whole brain radiation, you can expect a similar experience to stereotactic radiation therapy, except you will be undergoing multiple treatment sessions that are shorter in duration. Prior to treatment you will need to receive a simulation, which includes an MRI or CT scan. A radiation oncologist will then review your scans to make a specialized plan, and sometimes a mask to keep you steady during treatment.
Typically treatment is in the morning and takes about 15 minutes. Once treatment is done you are allowed to go home and will return when you are scheduled for your next session. Each session is the same as the first.
You may still need to have modifications made to your prescription medications. Discuss this with your providers, and once again, never make changes on your own. Your provider will also tell you if you need to refrain from eating or drinking prior to your appointments.
The major difference with whole brain radiation is that you may experience greater side effects, including fatigue and memory deficits, because the therapy affects both healthy and tumor cells. This is the reason why stereotactic radiosurgery is becoming a favored form of metastasis brain cancer treatment.
Preparing for Treatment in General
Regardless of which treatment you will be undergoing, there are some preparations related to everyday life that can be easily overlooked. If you take care to cover all your bases prior to treatment, your recovery will be that much smoother.
Some questions to consider include:
- Will you require child care during your treatment, hospital stay or at-home recovery time?
- Will you need help around the home with daily chores or cooking?
- Do you have someone to drive you home from the hospital following treatment?
- Similarly, do you have someone to drive you to do errands, if you are unable?
- If you will be missing work, have you budgeted for the missed time?
If you have further questions about how to prepare for your treatment, be sure to bring them up with your provider prior to your scheduled procedure. Remember to inform your surgeon of any medications you are taking, including vitamins and supplements, so he can discuss them with your physician and make any needed modifications.
The most important thing is that you are able to focus fully on your recovery following your metastasis brain cancer treatment. Every preparation you make beforehand is one less thing to do afterward, and it will make things far easier for you later.