Sunday, January 13, 2008

How to Learn About the Side Effects of Treatment for Brain Cancer


Brain cancer is classified as either primary (originating in the brain) or secondary (originating elsewhere and spreading to the brain). With more than 100 types of brain tumors, there are a number of treatments to learn about and a variety of side effects that may be experienced. When you know what to expect, you can prepare accordingly.


Difficulty: Moderate



Step One

Know that certain groups are at higher risk of contracting tumors in the brain. Those at high-risk include people with other types of cancer (as these cancers can spread to the brain), those with auto-immune disorders and those with a family history of cancer. Research other causes at the Web site of the National Cancer Institute (see "Resources" below).

Step Two

Understand the side effects of surgery. When surgery is used to remove all or part of a brain tumor, side effects can include swelling, pain, blurred vision, epileptic seizures and impaired motor function. These symptoms can all be treated with drugs such as corticosteroids, antiepileptics and histamine inhibitors.

Step Three

Understand the side effects of radiation therapy. The pituitary gland is often affected and may stop functioning altogether. Mental capacity is sometimes diminished by heavy doses of radiation. Other effects include nausea, fatigue and low blood count.

Step Four

Understand the side effects of chemotherapy. These include nausea, hair loss, fatigue, loss of appetite, diarrhea and constipation. Chemotherapy is used less frequently than surgery and radiation to treat brain cancer. It may be used following either of these treatments to keep cancer cells from spreading or regrowing.

Step Five

Make changes to your lifestyle to accommodate your treatment. You may need to arrange your activities around your radiation or chemotherapy treatments so that you have the most energy when it's time for social events or work.

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