As discussed on this blog before, brain tumors – even the benign kind – can be a true nightmare. We decided now would be a good time to discuss a little more about them, including what kind of treatments those with benign tumors can get.
To give you a basic understanding, a benign brain tumor is a group of cells that do not have normal growth or cell division as the rest of the brain cells. Different from malignant tumors, benign tumors grow slowly and do not invade surrounding tissue or other organs. They are often characterized by their distinct edges as shown in CT or MRI scans. However, these kinds of tumors can still pose a danger by pressing on surrounding tissue.
One of the most common types of treatment for brain tumors is surgery. This is usually done if the tumor is located where it can be easily accessed and removed with a lower risk of neurological damage. This option is more likely to happen if there is only one tumor, its edges are clearly defined, and the general health of the patient is good.
The newest treatment for brain tumor removal is called the Gamma Knife. The name is misleading however, as this process does not involve a knife. In the procedure, narrow beams of radiation are targeted at the tumor cells in the brain and is done without any incisions or anesthesia. Done in only one sitting, this is often the treatment recommended for those who have a tumor in a hard to reach place, multiple tumors, or other factors that make surgery risky.
Radiation therapy is the last type of treatment someone with a benign tumor may experience. In some cases, as in smaller tumors, radiation may be the only method of treatment needed. Radiation therapy can also be used as a follow up to brain surgery if some of the tumor still remains even if the cells are microscopic. Unlike the Gamma Knife, radiation therapy is often done more than once and usually for weeks at a time. Because radiation therapy works by stopping the tumors ability to reproduce, it usually takes a while for the results to be seen. A CT or MRI scan is usually ordered about three months after radiation to see how successful it was.
Casey Roberts is a student and also writes for http://www.radiologyassistant.org/ which helps students find the right radiology degree.