Because you are reading this article, you have likely received a recent diagnosis of a metastatic brain tumor and are seeking out answers to the many questions you have. Becoming self-educated is an excellent way to better understand your condition and take an active role in your treatment.
“What should I do next?” is a big question, and you may be feeling a little overwhelmed with information right now. Remember that you are at the very start of your path to recovery, and it’s always helpful to map out any new journey before beginning. The following are some helpful steps you can take as you move forward with your treatment for your metastatic brain tumor.
1. Learn About Modern Treatments
The first helpful thing to understand is that your condition is the result of cancer spreading from another area. You may or may not have been aware of your other cancer prior to your metastatic brain tumor diagnosis. Some patients learn of the second cancer only after seeking treatment for headaches, seizures or other neurological conditions.
Regardless of which category you fall into, the fact that your tumor has spread from another site is why it is referred to as metastatic. Had it originated in the cells from within the brain, it would be called a primary tumor.
The treatment options for metastatic brain tumors are very effective, particularly compared to primary tumors of the brain. This means that, in general, metastatic brain tumors are not only treatable, but they have even higher success than primary brain tumors.
2. Find a Doctor You Are Comfortable With
If you learned of your metastatic brain tumor following the diagnosis and treatment of your primary cancer, chances are you already have a physician and oncology team you are working with. However, you should not feel obligated to continue with that practice if anything has left you dissatisfied with your previous care.
For patients who do not have experience with cancer treatment or are looking to change providers, the most important thing is to find somewhere you are comfortable. Schedule a consultation and visit the practice to learn about their providers and experience with treating metastatic brain tumors. Some questions to ask yourself after your visit include:
- Did you feel comfortable as soon as you walked in the door?
- Do you feel like you were listened to and your concerns addressed?
- Do you have confidence in the ability of the practitioners to care for your health?
If you answer “no” to any of those questions, you may want to consider continuing to look for a practice that fits your needs. Ask family and friends if they can refer you to a provider, and read reviews online to get a sense of what other patients have to say. It is okay to take your time and find a doctor you are comfortable with before settling on a practice.
3. Decide on an Appropriate Treatment
Once you find the doctor who is right for you, he or she will help you develop a treatment plan based upon the nature of your metastatic brain tumor. Factors your doctor will take into consideration include the number of lesions, the location and any other health conditions you may have.
Regardless of the specifics of your case, radiation therapy is recommended for all patients with metastatic brain tumors. There are different types of radiation therapy, but the goal is the same: stop the growth or even destroy the tumor, while causing as little effect to healthy tissue as possible.
Some patients will also require surgery to remove part, if not all of the tumor. This may be to help with symptoms, to take a biopsy to determine the cell type within the tumor or to make radiation therapy possible.
Your doctor will guide you through the process of choosing the treatment approach that is right for you. He or she will make recommendations for treatment, but be sure to raise any questions or concerns you may have during the discussion.
4. Gather Your Support System
Finally, it can’t be stressed enough that you are not alone in this journey. There are people around you who care about you and who can provide you with support before, during and after your treatment.
During difficult times, there can be a tendency to withdraw and face things on your own. However, friends, family, neighbors, coworkers and your health care team can be vital to your recovery. Some people have a harder time allowing others to help them. Keep in mind that your support system is there because they care, and they are there for you to lean on.
Putting It Together
Now that you have some guidance on next steps, it’s time to decide on a game plan. You know that there are effective treatment options available for your metastatic brain tumor. You know the importance of a doctor you can trust and a support network to be there for you. You know that there are treatment options available to you, and your healthcare team will help you determine what is best for you.
Keep learning about your condition and treatment options, and build up your personal knowledge base. This will allow you to make informed decisions and have confidence in your choices, giving you more peace of mind as you walk this road to recovery.