Doctors have three basic treatment options for brain tumors: surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Progress is also being made with biological treatment.
Surgery is usually the first and the most common treatment, and is associated with the greatest amount of therapeutic effect. To remove the tumor from the brain, a neurosurgeon will remove a piece of bone to gain access to the brain. This operation is called a craniotomy. Usually the bone will be put back in place and secured with small plates and screws. However, sometimes the bone cannot be replaced, or cannot be replaced immediately, in which case other materials will be used to cover the hole in the skull and protect the brain.
At present, surgery is the most effective treatment for patients with primary brain tumors. Due to the location of the tumor, however, surgery may not always be possible, and the surgery itself can result in a permanent disability. Doctors are developing new, innovative techniques that optimize the use of technology, radiation, gene therapy, and biological therapies.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill tumor cells. Chemotherapy may be taken by pill, or it may be put into the body by a needle in the vein or muscle. Chemotherapy is called a systemic treatment because the drug enters the bloodstream, travels through the body, and can kill cancer cells throughout the body.
Due to what is commonly called the “blood barrier” it can be difficult for medications to reach affected areas of the brain. In some cases, doctors will implant a medical device to deliver chemotherapy and other medicines directly to the tumor site following surgery. Brain Science Foundation funds projects in this very arena, including one that uses a microchip to regulate and direct the flow of medication.
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