Munson Health
Brain Tumor and Brain Cancer -- Adult

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by Wood D


You will be asked your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You will have a neurological exam. It will test muscle strength, coordination, reflexes, response to external actions, and alertness. The doctor may also look into your eyes to check for signs of brain swelling.
Images of your bodily structures may need to be taken. This can be done with:
A sample of brain tissue may need to be removed for testing. This can be done with:
There are many different types of brain tumors. The doctor will classify the type. The type of brain tumor is important to determine the treatment approach.


After cancer is found, further tests may be done if there is concern that the cancer has spread. Treatment depends on the type, size, location of the cancer, and your overall health. Treatments may leave you with physical or mental limitations.
Before beginning treatment, you may take medications, including:
  • Steroids to decrease swelling and fluid buildup
  • Anticonvulsants to prevent seizures


Surgical procedures include:
  • Craniotomy—opening the skull to remove the tumor or as much of the tumor as possible
  • Shunt—implanting a long thin tube in the brain to direct fluid build up to another part of the body

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. This is a common treatment for brain tumors. Radiation may be:
  • External radiation therapy—Radiation is directed at the tumor from a source outside the body. If you have a metastatic brain tumor, you will receive whole brain radiation therapy (WBRT). If you have a primary brain tumor, you will receive more focused radiation therapy. WRBT may also be used in people who have cancer in other areas of the body. The treatment is used to prevent brain cancer.
  • Internal radiation therapy—Radioactive materials are placed into the body near the cancer cells. This is used less often.
  • Stereotactic radiosurgery—Higher doses of radiation can be delivered to the affected areas of the brain. Nearby normal tissue can be spared. Special equipment, including MRI and CT scans, help to focus the radiation. This is most often used in metastatic brain tumors or in benign brain tumors, such as meningiomas.


Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. It may be given in many forms, including pill, injection, or through a tube called a catheter. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body killing mostly cancer cells, but also some healthy cells. It may also be delivered directly into the cerebrospinal fluid, which bathes the brain tissue. This form of chemotherapy is called intrathecal. This is most often used when cancer has spread from elsewhere in the body to the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

Rehabilitation Therapy

Rehabilitation therapy includes:
  • Physical therapy to help with walking, balance, and building strength
  • Occupational therapy to help with mastering life skills, such as dressing, eating, and using the toilet
  • Speech therapy to help express thoughts and overcome swallowing difficulties


American Brain Tumor Association

American Cancer Society



Canadian Cancer Society

Cancer Care Ontario



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Brain tumor. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: Accessed September 5, 2014.

12/20/2007 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance 2007 safety alerts for drugs, biologics, medical devices, and dietary supplements: Carbamazepine (marketed as Carbatrol, Equetro, Tegretol and generics). Medwatch. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at:

5/28/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance Tremont-Lukats IW, Ratilal BO, Armstrong T, Gilbert MR. Antiepileptic drugs for preventing seizures in people with brain tumors. The Cochrane Library. 2008; DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004424.pub2.


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