Whether you have an upcoming metastatic brain tumor treatment scheduled or are just beginning to learn about your treatment options, chances are you have questions. Perhaps you are curious about the advantages of one treatment over another, or maybe you would like to know why you aren’t a good candidate for a certain procedure.
It’s important to understand that metastatic brain tumors vary from patient to patient. Metastatic tumors are ones that have spread from another site in the body, and yours may not be the same as the next person. Metastatic brain tumors also differ in size, number and location, which are all factors that must be taken into consideration when developing a treatment plan.
By learning about each metastatic brain tumor treatment option available, you can have a better understanding about why your doctor has recommended a particular procedure, or a combination of procedures, for your condition. Developing that extra understanding can allow you to have confidence in your upcoming treatment so you can focus more energy on your recovery.
Surgery as a Treatment Option
There are three typical cases where your doctor may recommend surgery for your metastatic brain tumor:
1) The first is to perform a biopsy, which can be necessary if the source of your metastatic tumor is unknown. A biopsy is a sample of tissue that is sent to a specialist known as a pathologist, who will examine it and report back to the doctor about the characteristics of the tumor. This will help your doctor better understand your condition and decide on next steps for treatment.
2) You may also be a candidate for surgery if your tumor is large and cannot be treated by radiation alone. If this is true in your case, your surgery will likely be followed by radiation therapy. That’s because if any tumor cells remain after your surgeon removes the tumor, they could potentially grow back and require retreatment.
3) The third scenario in which your doctor may recommend surgical treatment is if your tumor is in an area that is easy to access with low risk. However, your surgery may still be followed up with radiation therapy, even if your tumor is small, to ensure that all known cancer cells have been cleared.
Traditional Radiation as a Treatment Option
Traditional radiation, also known as whole-brain radiation therapy, is what many people think of as the typical cancer treatment, with good reason. It has long been the standard of care for metastatic brain tumor treatment because it is an effective way to rid the body of cancer cells using beams of energy to disrupt and damage the cells.
Whole-brain radiation therapy involves multiple sessions of relatively low-dose radiation, which is administered to the whole brain. While effective, an unfortunate consequence is that normal tissue can be damaged along with the tumor cells. This can lead to the side effects often seen with traditional radiation therapy, such as cognitive effects, nausea and headaches. However, there is a new radiation therapy, called Gamma Knife radiosurgery, that does not lead to as many side effects, which many doctors are beginning to prefer.
Gamma Knife Stereotactic Radiosurgery as a Treatment Option
Despite its name, stereotactic radiosurgery is not actually a surgery. Instead, it is an emerging type of radiation therapy that allows the surgeon to target the tumor cells with a highly focused beam, sparing the surrounding healthy tissues.
This minimally invasive, single-dose treatment is favored by some practices because of the excellent results and reduced side effects. The doctors at Neurosurgeons of New Jersey use the Gamma knife technology specifically and find it to be an effective, durable metastatic brain tumor treatment.
Your doctor may recommend Gamma Knife radiosurgery if:
- Your diagnosis is known and does not require biopsy.
- You are not a candidate for surgery because of health complications or if the risk associated with your tumor’s location is too high.
- Your tumor is small and easily treatable with Gamma knife radiosurgery.
Finding the Best Approach
Because every patient is so different, it is important to find a doctor who is willing to consider you and your condition as an individual, to help you develop a treatment plan that is right for you. It can be difficult to find an unbiased clinician who won’t naturally steer you towards a particular treatment simply because it falls within his or her specialty, such as an oncologist recommending radiation or a surgeon recommending surgery.
That said, there are practices out there that strive to put the patient first and take an unbiased approach when recommending treatment. Neurosurgeons of New Jersey takes pride in its patient-centric model, where every treatment recommendation is made on a case-by-case basis, developed with your needs at the forefront.
Now that you have a better understanding of the procedures available for metastatic brain tumor treatment, you may find that you have new questions. Be sure to bring them up with your doctor or surgeon. This deeper understanding you are developing about your condition and treatment can help you be more at ease with the entire process.