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Brain Cancer Chemotherapy  

Brain cancer treatments usually involve surgical removal of the tumor, radiation therapy and brain cancer chemotherapy.  We will discuss the use of chemotherapy as a treatment option for brain cancer. 


Chemotherapy involves the use of special drugs which are designed to respond to rapidly growing cells.  It reacts with these cells and disrupts their activity so that they eventually die.  This is why they can be so effective at treating cancer. 


However brain cancer chemotherapy is not generally a very desirable form of treatment.  Surgical treatments have been used frequently to remove cancerous tumors which are localized and in the early stages of cancer. 


In order for the chemotherapy to work well, it has to be in contact with the cancer cells.  Many types of brain cancer chemotherapy have a difficult time passing through the blood-brain barrier and therefore have limited effectiveness. 


But there are some newer forms of treatment which can deliver these powerful anti-cancer drugs much closer to the affected tissues and greatly improve the effectiveness. 


For example interstitial chemotherapy is designed to use round wafer which are soaked in a powerful anti-cancer drug.  These wafers can be implanted directly into the brain in the area where a tumor has been removed surgically to help destroy any remaining cancer cells in the area. 


Intrathecal chemotherapy is a technique where drugs are delivered directly into the spinal fluid.  And intra-arterial chemotherapy applies anti-cancer drugs directly into the brain through tiny catheters implanted into arteries which feed the brain. 


There are a number of drugs which have been used successfully to treat brain cancer.  For example the drug temozolomide has been used for certain types of brain cancer which did not respond well to other therapies.  Another drug called carmustine has been used to treat many kinds of brain tumors.  As indicated earlier, it is normally delivered through a soaked wafer which is implanted into the brain. 


And some treatments involve a combination of drugs which have been found to work well together. 


But keep in mind that there are side effects associated with most of these drugs.  Since the drugs are designed to attack rapidly growing cells, they can affect healthy cells as well as cancerous ones.  So common side effects can include fatigue; nausea; vomiting; skin problems; pain; and respiratory problems. 


The many in which these drugs are delivered as well as the frequency and dosage size can help to lessen these side effects while maximizing effectiveness.  Many of the side effects experienced tend to go away once the treatment has stopped.  This is why in many cases a series of treatments will stop for a while in order to give the body a chance to recover from the negative effects of the anti-cancer drugs. 


Between the use of new delivery systems and more effective drugs, the effectiveness for brain cancer chemotherapy continues to improve.  It can be a good way to help to shrink tumors prior to surgical removal; reduce the likelihood of cancer reoccurrence by eliminating cancer cells which were not surgically removed; and help to control the growth of cancer and associated symptoms for advanced stages.