Brain Tumor Treatment Options
Brain Tumor Medications
A brain tumor can cause swelling, pressure in the brain, and seizures. Various medications can help relieve these problems.
By Krisha McCoy
Medically Reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
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The most common treatments for a spinal cord or brain tumor are surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. In addition, your doctors may prescribe other medicines, depending on the symptoms caused by the tumor.
Brain Tumor Medication: Steroids
A brain tumor can cause the surrounding brain tissue to swell, putting pressure on the surrounding brain. To handle that swelling and pressure, some brain tumor patients will receive steroids, says Elizabeth Gerstner, MD, assistant professor of neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital and instructor of neurology at Harvard Medical School in Boston. Decreased swelling allows for increased blood flow around the tumor, which can help alleviate some of the symptoms the tumor is causing.
Higher-grade, more aggressive tumors are commonly treated with steroids, Dr. Gerstner says. Your doctor may prescribe a steroid or other type of anti-inflammatory medication at any point during your brain tumor treatment. You may need to take the medication for only a few days, or for a couple of months or more, depending on the level of swelling. When it is time for you to stop taking the steroid, your doctor will gradually lessen the dosage.
Potential side effects of steroid medications include:
- Weight gain
- Sleep disturbances
- Muscle weakness
- Water retention
- Increased blood glucose levels, particularly in people with diabetes
- Gastrointestinal problems
Brain Tumor Medication: Anti-Seizure Therapies
Another common treatment for brain tumor patients is anti-seizure medications, says Gerstner. Anti-Seizure medications, sometimes called anti-convulsants or anti-epileptics, can help control seizures brought on by a brain tumor. Gerstner says some brain tumors can irritate neurons, prompting electrical activity, which can lead to a seizure.
While anti-seizure medications can help prevent future seizures, there is a chance someone can still have a seizure while taking these medications.
Depending on the medication, people taking anti-seizure medications may be at increased risk for the following adverse effects:
- Slurred speech
- Loss of balance
- Vision problems
- Weight gain
- Sleep problems
- Mood changes
Other Brain Tumor Medications
Your doctor may prescribe other medications, depending on your individual symptoms. For example, you may take:
- Pain medicationsto control any pain you may be feeling from your tumor or its treatments.
- Anti-emeticsto relieve the nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
- Antidepressantsto help you if you are feeling depressed or anxious as a result of your brain tumor diagnosis and prognosis.
Your doctor can discuss the risks and benefits of your specific medications. It is important that all members of your medical team know what you are taking. Drugs, including supplements and over-the-counter medicines, can interact with each other, so your doctors need to know what medications you are taking should a medical emergency arise.
Video: Expectations After Brain Tumor Treatment
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