Alternative Brain Cancer Treatments: Surgery vs Other Options

Patients diagnosed with brain cancer will need to undergo treatment. This can include surgery or alternative treatment options for brain cancer.

  • Minimally invasive alternative brain cancer treatments include radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
  • Some brain cancers can be treated with Gamma Knife radiosurgery, an advanced form of radiation therapy.
  • Gamma Knife radiosurgery is minimally invasive and does not require any incisions or a hospital stay.
  • Recovery following Gamma Knife radiosurgery is milder and briefer than surgery, as well as whole brain radiation therapy.
  • Chemotherapy is typically reserved for very aggressive brain cancers.

Learning About Your Brain Cancer

Learning you have brain cancer can be an emotional process. However, you are clearly taking steps to educate yourself about your condition, which is a powerful way to foster a sense of control and confidence as you move along your treatment path. Whether you were just diagnosed or already have a procedure scheduled, the following information can help you enhance your understanding of your condition and treatment options, including alternative brain cancer treatments available in the tri-state area.

Types of Brain Cancers

There are different types of brain cancers, and your individual diagnosis will influence your treatment plan. Brain cancers can be variable in size, location and grade, which is a classification based on aggressiveness. Brain cancers can also arise from different types of cells. If your cancer developed from cells within the brain, such as a glioma, then that is considered primary cancer. If your cancer spread from another site in the body (like the lung) and then grew into a tumor within the brain, that is a secondary, or metastatic, brain cancer.

Surgery for Brain Cancer

Some patients will require surgery to remove all or part of a brain tumor. Surgery takes place in an inpatient setting while you are asleep and typically requires a hospital stay of about three days. Your doctor may recommend surgery if:

  • Your brain tumor is large
  • Your brain tumor is in an easily accessible area
  • You are a good surgical candidate (young, no complicating health conditions)
  • You have an aggressive form of brain cancer requiring immediate intervention

Recovery from brain cancer surgery will be a very personal experience, depending on your individual condition and health factors. However, most patients can expect to be on activity restrictions for a period of 4-8 weeks. You can expect to have follow-up visits for things like suture removal, postoperative imaging and assessment of symptoms. As your body heals, your doctor will gradually ease any restrictions.

Alternative Brain Cancer Treatments

Though some patients will require surgery, many will also be candidates for alternative brain cancer treatments. These include forms of radiation therapy, as well as chemotherapy. Alternative brain cancer treatments are often used following surgery to ensure all of the cancer cells have been eradicated. However, they can also be used as a primary form of treatment, offering a minimally invasive approach without the need for surgery. One particular alternative brain cancer treatment, Gamma Knife radiosurgery, can be an excellent choice for many patients and is available in the NJ area. Particularly, in brain tumors behind the eye, gamma knife is a great option. 

Gamma Knife Radiosurgery

Gamma Knife radiosurgery is an advanced form of radiation therapy that can be an excellent alternative brain cancer treatment for many patients, avoiding surgery altogether. Gamma Knife radiosurgery uses almost 200 beams of individual low-dose radiation and is so precise your doctor can treat just your brain cancer, avoiding dosing healthy tissues. The result is a highly effective alternative brain cancer treatment that causes fewer unpleasant side effects than whole brain radiation therapy.

As with whole brain radiation therapy, Gamma Knife radiosurgery takes place in an outpatient setting, without the need for a hospital stay. However, unlike whole brain radiation therapy, many patients will only require a single treatment of Gamma Knife radiosurgery, though some may need up to five. Recovery is generally mild, and most patients are able to return to normal activity levels, including work, within a day or two.

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Whole Brain Radiation Therapy

Whole brain radiation therapy is the delivery of low doses of radiation to the entire brain, including healthy brain tissue. Treatment takes place in an outpatient setting and does not require a hospital stay. However, most patients will require 3-5 sessions per week for a minimum of three weeks.

Because whole brain radiation therapy does affect healthy cells, patients typically experience severe side effects such as memory loss and cognitive impairments. Other side effects can include headache, nausea, fatigue and hair loss. These are the side effects that many people are familiar with when thinking of radiation therapy. However, despite these unpleasant consequences, whole brain radiation has been used to effectively treat many forms of brain cancer for many years.


Many patients are familiar with the concept of chemotherapy, using medications to treat cancer. However, the brain is a protected site of the body, which means it can be difficult for drugs to reach tumors there. To complicate matters, brain cancers can be made up of different types of cells, each requiring a different kind of drug for treatment. Chemotherapy is often reserved for aggressive types of brain cancer because of the severe side effects the drugs can cause.

Your Individual Treatment Path

Not every patient will be a candidate for alternative brain cancer treatments like Gamma Knife radiosurgery. However, you may be, which is why you should continue the discussion with your personal doctor. A minimally invasive approach, such as Gamma Knife radiosurgery, can avoid the risks and complications associated with surgery, eliminate the need for a hospital stay and provide an effective treatment with a shorter and more comfortable recovery period.

If you would like to know if you are a candidate for alternative brain cancer treatments in northern NJ, be sure to ask your doctor at your next appointment. He or she will be able to discuss your individual condition and personal health factors with you to determine whether or not alternative brain cancer treatments are a good choice for your specific needs.

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Our Patient Liaison is here to help you understand your next step. After discussing your specific case, she can help you navigate your medical records, answer insurance questions, and connect you with one of our nurses, at no charge to you.

Patient liaisons explain Gamma Knife surgery cost, outcomes, etc.