Brain Health/Neurology Cancer Care

Navigating a Brain Tumor Diagnosis and Treatment Plan

May 6, 2021

Navigating a Brain Tumor Diagnosis and Treatment Plan

My own father had a brain tumor. Before my father’s diagnosis, I participated in activities related to brain tumor awareness, conducted research on brain tumors, participated in advancing the science and the treatments of brain tumors, and advised thousands of patients with brain tumors on the newest treatments, outcomes, and expectations after a brain tumor diagnosis. But, nothing in my training, nor in my medical practice, prepared me for my own family’s experience with a brain tumor diagnosis.

Brain tumors are complicated. Each tumor is different. The size, the type, the location, and the health challenges of the patient all determine the treatment outcome.

Treatment Plans Are Individualized For Each Brain Tumor Patient

A complex team of neurosurgeons, oncologists, radiation oncologists, and the patient’s own family physician are involved in assessing the situation and establishing the treatment plan.

The patient and their family are at the center of this, with many face-to-face discussions between the surgeon, the oncologist, the patient and their family.

What Might a Brain Tumor Treatment Plan Include?

During this time, it’s natural for the patient’s anxiety to run high, as there is still a strong held belief that a brain tumor diagnosis is a terminal diagnosis. Fortunately, in many instances, this is not the case.

During the last 15 years the brain tumor treatments have been standardized and new treatments are integrated rapidly into the standard of care. Therefore, patients, even in remote locations, can receive the same treatment as patients in large urban settings. Treatments for brain tumors are always advancing and research is paramount to this as well.

Multiple opinions matter, as patients are being treated by a multidisciplinary team. The treatment plans always include genomic testing, targeted therapies, immunotherapies and clinical trials.

Being a patient with a brain tumor is a marathon and not a sprint. To that end, the focus of the treatment is not only on treating the tumor, but also on treating the whole person. Integrative medicine holds an important role in treating the patient, including the mind-body connection, spiritual vitality, and the social support system. Improving the quality of life of the cancer patient also improves the outcome of the treatment.

Caregivers and Support Systems

An essential part of treating any cancer patient, but especially a brain tumor patient, is the caregiver. However, the caregivers can become fatigued, and they also need their own support system. Therefore, a good social support system from other family members, friends and the community is essential for the brain tumor patient and their caregiver. Humans are social creatures and being around others with the same afflictions can help tremendously with keeping up spirits and pursuing the treatment plan. Many patients and caregivers benefit from brain tumor support groups, either online or in-person.

Being a caregiver for my father changed my outlook on life. Going through the diagnosis, the surgery and the treatment with my father gave me further appreciation for the struggles and the emotional toll that a brain tumor diagnosis takes upon patients and their families. Having a strong support system helped me and my mother support my father, as we traversed our own brain tumor journey with success. My father survived and is recovering well.

If you experience headaches, difficulty with performing daily activities, forgetfulness, vision changes, unexplained shaking, weakness, or sensory changes talk to your doctor and get an MRI.

For more information visit the CHI Health Neurological Institute website.

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