May is Brain Tumor Month
May is Brain Tumor Awareness Month and like other cancer sites, many new modalities of treatment are constantly being developed. Primary brain tumors or tumors that start in the brain are clearly quite challenging given the importance of brain function to human life and quality of life. Initial therapies generally involve surgery where the new “stealth” directed surgeries can best resect the tumor while limiting normal brain removal. Frequently additional therapies with radiation and chemotherapy are necessary. Like surgery, radiation can now be delivered in very targeted and precise manner with efforts to spare adjacent normal tissue that are critical to brain function. Additionally, combination therapies with new immune modulators and chemotherapy agents are added to also reduce or eliminate recurrence.
The second scenario, and more common situation, is when the brain is treated for metastatic spread to the brain. The most common tumors, such as lung and breast, frequently send cells to the brain where metastatic deposits grow and impact the function of our patients. Radiation therapy is critical at managing many of these patients and most recently can be performed with less side effects and better control rates following treatment. One strategy that is now commonly utilized is focal high dose ablative therapy called Sterotactic Radiosurgery. This therapy can replace surgical removal in some instances and is delivered with close coordination with our neurosurgical colleagues, typically in a single treatment visit. Historically the whole brain was treated with low-dose radiation for 1-5 lesions of the brain where now these cases can be focally ablated with significantly less long-term complications than treating the whole brain. Additionally, when the whole brain requires treatment for multiple small lesions, we can now treat and significantly spare the hippocampus region where memory is consolidated. Sparing this memory forming region further reduces the complications and negative cognitive impact of treating the whole brain. SERO has been a regional leader in offering these newer techniques in the clinic to improve the care of our brain tumor patients.
For more facts and information on brain tumors from the American Society for Radiation Oncology, of which SERO is an active member, click here.