Treatment depends on the size and type of the tumor, from where in the body it spread, and the patient'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 is more than one tumor.
Surgery may be used for metastatic brain tumors when there is a single tumor and the cancer hasn't 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 debulked (reduced in size).
Surgery may reduce pressure and relieve symptoms in cases when the tumor cannot be removed.
Chemotherapy for metastatic brain tumors is not as helpful as surgery or radiation.
Stereotactic radiosurgery is used at some hospitals. This form of radiation therapy focuses high-powered x-rays on a small area of the brain.
Medications for brain tumor symptoms may 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 medications
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 get legal advice to help them create advanced directives, such as a power of attorney.