If you or a loved one have a brain tumor, chances are you want to know as much as you can about treatment options. Maybe you have a long list of questions you want to ask your care team — or maybe you have no idea where to start.
No matter which category you fall into, understanding is the goal, says Steven Brem, MD, Co-Director of the Brain Tumor Center and Director of Neurosurgical Oncology at Penn Medicine. Treatment for brain tumors comes with risks and benefits, and you should be confident that you have a firm grasp on every part of your treatment plan.
It may a good idea to write down any questions that arise throughout this process. Keeping a notebook or phone recordings specifically dedicated to your questions can help you feel prepared when you meet with your physician. But if you aren’t sure where to start when coming up with that list of things to ask about, here are 5 questions about brain tumor treatment to get you started.
1. What Are the Benefits and Risks of the Procedure?
Dr. Brem says that “there’s a whole menu of procedures being offered at Penn Medicine, and we want to make them as safe and as maximally effective as possible for that patient".
Asking about your options — including benefits and risks — will allow you to be proactive and gain more control of your treatment decisions. The answers can also help you know what to expect and be prepared every step of the way.
2. How Much of the Tumor Will Be Removed?
The extent of resectioning — or removing the tumor — is a very important concept because a lot of the subsequent treatment is based on that, according to Dr. Brem. The goal is to remove as much of the tumor as possible.
Penn’s advanced tools like brain mapping, electrical stimulation, and diffusion tractography can help your physician do that. Knowing how much of your tumor will be resected can help you have realistic expectations about the outcome. If all of the tumor can’t be removed during surgery, it’s possible that you’ll need other treatments, like radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
3. What Will Be the Next Steps After Surgery?
Many patients are able to leave the hospital 2 days after a surgery, Dr. Brem says. But you should also know how your treatment will impact your life beyond those days in the hospital, including when you can return to work, what further treatment you’ll need, and how it will affect your day-to-day life. This can help you plan accordingly and alter your routine as necessary.
Knowing the next steps can help you figure out how much you’ll need to rely on friends and family, too. They may also need to prepare to take off of work or find childcare.
4. What Clinical Trials Are Going on That Might Be a Good Fit?
Penn Medicine has a lot of exciting ongoing clinical trials. You may want to consider participating in one, if you are a candidate. They can be an opportunity to be a part of innovative treatments that aren’t available to the public yet — putting you at the forefront of some very advanced treatment options. And clinical trials help the future of healthcare and may allow others access to better treatment.
Learn more about Penn Neurosurgery Clinical Trials
5. What Should I Expect Down the Line Regarding My Treatment and Health?
Dr. Brem says that one of the toughest — but most important — questions to ask is how long your treatment will last, including expectations about potential future treatments and long-term outcomes.
You’ll want to be able to prepare for any scenario. Penn Medicine has a lot of advanced treatment options to treat brain tumors and provide the best quality of life for as long as possible.
As Dr. Brem says, “Often there is a reason to be hopeful these days, and there’s a lot of excitement in the field.” Being prepared, knowing what to expect, and keeping the communication lines open can help you feel informed, confident, and included during the brain tumor treatment process.