Your recent diagnosis of metastatic brain cancer has likely left you with many questions, including what to do next. Learning as much as you can about your condition and available treatment options in the northern NJ area is an excellent way to take an active role in your care during the treatment process. Doing so can provide a sense of control during this time, giving you confidence and peace of mind.
While every patient is different, it can be helpful to have a general understanding of metastatic brain cancer and all of the methods used to treat it. This can give insight into why your doctor has recommended one treatment over another or if you are not at that stage yet, can better prepare you for the treatment planning process to come.
More About Metastatic Brain Cancer
Metastatic brain cancer, as opposed to primary brain cancer, started at another site in the body and spread to your brain. Common sites include the lung, breast and kidney. This means that your tumor is not made up of brain cells but is actually composed of cells from the original cancer.
Sometimes the primary cancer is discovered first, and your doctor already knows what kind of metastatic brain tumor you have. Other times, the metastatic brain cancer is discovered first, and it may need to be biopsied, or sampled, to determine where it originated from. This is important because the different types of cells respond better to some treatment methods than others. It is worth noting that chemotherapy is not typically a treatment option for metastatic brain tumors and is absent from the list below.
Treatment for Metastatic Brain Cancer in NJ
As you begin to learn about your treatment options, keep in mind that your personal doctor is going to make recommendations based on your individual metastatic brain cancer, including the types of cells present, the size and location of your tumor and your overall health. However, all metastatic brain cancers require some form of radiation therapy, sometimes in combination with surgery.
If your metastatic brain cancer is especially large or in an easily accessible area, your doctor may recommend surgical removal, or resection, of all or part of your tumor. However, if your tumor is in a delicate area of the brain, such as the portion responsible for forming and understanding speech, surgery may not be an option. There are other factors, too, such as advanced age or complicating health conditions, that may rule out using a surgical approach.
Should your doctor recommend surgery, it will be followed by radiation therapy to ensure that all of the cancer cells have been eradicated. If a single cancer cell remains, it has the potential to regrow into a new tumor, and surgery is not precise enough to be sure that every bit of the tumor has been removed.
Whole Brain Radiation Therapy
Whole brain radiation therapy (WBRT) is the traditional form of radiation therapy for brain cancers and can be an effective treatment method for certain forms of metastatic brain cancer. However, it can result in unpleasant side effects, which can be severe and may lead your doctor to recommend another treatment option.
WBRT involves multiple sessions of low-dose radiation delivered to the entire brain. This means both cancerous and healthy tissues are affected, which is the primary downside of this mode of treatment. Many of the side effects of WBRT occur because the healthy tissues are also damaged, which is why many doctors in northern NJ have come to prefer another form of radiation therapy, stereotactic radiosurgery.
Gamma Knife Radiosurgery
Though it sounds like a surgical procedure, Gamma Knife radiosurgery is actually a form of stereotactic radiosurgery, an advanced form of radiation therapy that does not cause the same severe side effects as WBRT. This is because the Gamma Knife system can target your tumor with such precision that the healthy surrounding brain is spared, resulting in fewer treatments, fewer side effects and a quicker recovery.
Both Gamma Knife and WBRT take place in an outpatient setting, which means you will not be required to stay overnight. However, a key difference is the frequency of treatment sessions required to treat your metastatic brain cancer. While your treatment schedule will depend on your individual condition, many patients can be treated with a single Gamma Knife session, though some require up to five treatments. In contrast, many patients being treated with WBRT will need to undergo daily sessions, Monday through Friday, for two to three weeks.
Your Treatment Path
Now that you better understand your metastatic brain cancer treatment options in NJ, it is important to continue the discussion with your personal doctor. He or she will be the best person to explain your individual treatment options based on your specific health factors, including the type of metastatic brain tumor you have been diagnosed with and its exact location.
As you move forward from here, continue to educate yourself about your condition. This will help you know what to expect as you begin treatment and move into the recovery phase. Having confidence in your treatment and playing an active role throughout the process can help give you peace of mind regardless of which treatment method you will be undergoing in the tri-state area.