Treatment depends on the size and type of the tumor, from where in the body it spread, and the person's general health. The goals of treatment may be to relieve symptoms, improve functioning, or provide comfort.
Radiation to the whole brain is often used to treat tumors that have spread to the brain, especially if there are many tumors.
Surgery may be used when there is a single tumor and the cancer has not spread to other parts of the body. Some tumors may be completely removed. Tumors that are deep or that extend into brain tissue may be reduced in size (debulked).
Surgery may reduce pressure and relieve symptoms in cases when the tumor cannot be removed.
Chemotherapy for metastatic brain tumors is usually not as helpful as surgery or radiation. Some types of tumors, though, do respond to chemotherapy.
Stereotactic radiosurgery may also be used. This form of radiation therapy focuses high-power x-rays on a small area of the brain. It is used when there are only a few tumors.
Medicines for brain tumor symptoms include:
- Antacids or antihistamines to control stress ulcers
- Anticonvulsants such as phenytoin or levetiracetam to reduce or prevent seizures
- Corticosteroids such as dexamethasone to reduce brain swelling
- Osmotic diuretics such as urea or mannitol to reduce brain swelling
- Pain medicines
When the cancer has spread, treatment may focus on relieving pain and other symptoms. This is called palliative or supportive care.
Comfort measures, safety measures, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other treatments may improve the patient's quality of life. Some people may want to seek legal advice to help them create an advance directive and power of attorney for health care.