Brain Tumors

Brain Tumors

Each year, more than 35,000 people in the United States learn that they have a primary brain tumor, a tumor that begins in the brain rather than a tumor that spreads to the brain from another form of cancer. Some of these are benign, while others can start out benign and become invasive. Symptoms range from headaches and seizures to dizziness, loss of balance, difficulty reading or writing, even changes in hearing and taste. The tumors size and location, as well as your age and health, play a large part in deciding a course of treatment.

Recently Answered

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    AMichael E. Seiff, MD, Neurosurgery, answered on behalf of Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center
    How Is the Location of Brain Tumors Important?
    The location of a brain tumor affects both the patient and the surgeon who is treating it, says Michael Seiff, MD, a neurosurgeon at Sunrise Hospital. In this video, he describes areas of the brain that are problematic tumor locations.
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    AMichael E. Seiff, MD, Neurosurgery, answered on behalf of Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center
    What Is a Glioblastoma Multiforme Brain Tumor?
    A glioblastoma multiforme is a malignant brain tumor that's difficult to treat in the long run, says Michael Seiff, MD, a neurosurgeon at Sunrise Hospital. In this video, he says that this tumor is very common.
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    AMichael E. Seiff, MD, Neurosurgery, answered on behalf of Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center
    What Are the Difficulties in Treating Brain Tumors?
    The majority of brain tumors can be treated with surgery, says Michael Seiff, MD, a neurosurgeon at Sunrise Hospital. In this video, he discusses how the type of brain tumor will affect long-term outcomes.
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    ATania Kaprealian, MD, Radiation Oncology, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    The treatment of brain tumors -- surgery, radiation and chemotherapy -- varies depending on the diagnosis, location and symptoms. The decision of which treatment modality or modalities (or perhaps all) is best is generally made with a multidisciplinary team from all specialties discussing the case and making the decision. 
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    ATania Kaprealian, MD, Radiation Oncology, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    Doctors often like to use all three available methods (chemotherapy, surgery and radiation) for the treatment of most brain tumors. However, this is not always the case. Some benign meningiomas are small enough for radiation instead of surgery, so invasive procedures are not always required. 
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    ATania Kaprealian, MD, Radiation Oncology, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    Hair loss is a typical side effect of radiation treatment for a brain tumor. However, this depends on the kind of treatment. If you have beam distribution, just a patch of hair would be lost. If you have arc treatment, there is a halo of hair loss. Hair loss from radiation typically regrows three to six months after treatment, though in some cases it will not regrow or will regrow only partially in some areas. 

    Skin irritation in the form of mild redness or dryness in the area can also occur. Usually this is treated with an unscented moisturizer, but is never used within 4 hours of a radiation treatment. Fatigue can also occur, especially by week three and progressively increases onward. This usually resolves within two weeks after radiation therapy ends.

    There are also symptoms related to inflammation from radiation, which cause swelling or edema. These include the temporary development of symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or headache. There is also a temporary worsening of symptoms already present. These symptoms may require steroids or an increased dose of steroids. They also may require anti seizure medications or an increase in the dose already prescribed, if patient’s develop breakthrough seizures.

    There are also some late side effects after completing radiation, and one of these is radiation necrosis (dead cells caused by radiation therapy). This can cause swelling or edema and may require steroids for treatment. In some rare cases, surgery may even be required for treatment.

    Other side effects depend on the location of the tumor and radiation field; these include hearing loss, endocrine abnormalities, cataract development, worsening of short-term memory and cognitive decline such as decreased new learning or problem-solving skills.

    That said, people remain fully functional and can continue working during radiation therapy.
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    ATania Kaprealian, MD, Radiation Oncology, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    Primary brain tumor typically receives fractionated radiation treatment over 28 to 33 days depending on the diagnosis. Treatment is daily Monday through Friday.

    Prior to treatment, the physics team does several quality assurance checks to make sure everything matches precisely from the computer to the machine. On the first day of treatment, the doctor checks the setup with the radiation therapist team in the treatment room. Daily images are obtained and matched to the computed tomography (CT) image done on the day of planning,

    Your doctor will see you once a week at a set time to review any problems, questions or concerns. However, there are always doctors and nurses available daily if needed.
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    ATania Kaprealian, MD, Radiation Oncology, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    A team of people are involved in the radiation treatment of brain tumors: the doctor, both the attending doctor and  the resident doctor at an academic facility; the nurse and radiation therapists who work with the patients to set them up on the table for radiation treatment. Physicists and dosimetrists do the behind-the-scenes planning for the person.
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    ATania Kaprealian, MD, Radiation Oncology, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    Protons are a useful form of radiation therapy for some kinds of pediatric tumors. They are also beneficial for chordomas in the brain, as these require a very high dose and are often next to critical structures such as the optic nerve. The beauty of protons is that they have a very low entry dose, and they peak high where you want to deliver the dose and then sharply fall off, so there’s not much of an exit dose. 
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    ATania Kaprealian, MD, Radiation Oncology, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    During radiation therapy for brain tumors, the radiation machine rotates around the person and takes various x-rays. These are matched to the computed tomography (CT) scan that was done for planning. The doctor has to make sure that the set up is correct before treatment can proceed. Once the doctor has approved the various images, the treatment begins. 

    The treatment focuses intently on the tumor region, and it delivers the dose. Each time the radiation beam changes angles, new images have to be taken, and it has to be confirmed that they match again. Then, the treatment continues. Both the machine and the table that the person is on can move, allowing doctors to deliver the best conformal (tumor shape-hugging) plan.