The field of brain tumor treatment continues to evolve, offering hope to anyone diagnosed with a cancer of the central nervous system. Treatment options often depend on several factors, including whether the tumor is new or recurring, the location of the tumor inside the brain, the severity of symptoms, and a person’s age and general health status at diagnosis. Brain Tumor Types and Treatment Considerations Brain tumors fall into two broad categories: benign (non-cancerous) and malignant (cancerous). Malignant brain tumors are further divided into primary (originating in the brain) or secondary (also called metastatic, which means the cancer originated elsewhere in the body and subsequently spread to the brain). In general, for primary brain tumor treatment your doctor will take into account: Certain genetic markers that can indicate how treatable a particular type of tumor is The location of the tumor in the brain, which can affect the ability to surgically remove all or part of the tumor The severity of your symptoms The type of tumor and the grade of cancer involved Whether the tumor is benign or malignant Whether the tumor is new or is a recurrence of a previous brain tumor Your age and overall health status at time of diagnosis. Younger, more robust people tend to have a more positive prognosis for tumors than others. Treatment considerations for secondary brain tumors include: How many tumors are in the brain How well the tumor responds to treatment Where the tumor is located Whether the primary cancer is responding to treatment or is continuing to spread Brain Tumor Treatment for Primary Cancers Doctors have several options for treating malignant tumors that arise in the brain. The first step usually is brain surgery for tumors that can be completely or partially removed. Other treatments for malignant brain tumors include: Alternating electric field therapy: This new treatment has shown positive results in treating glioblastoma. The therapy uses a portable device (under the brand name Optune) connected to a net of electrodes worn on the head. The electrodes generate an electrical field around the skull that interferes with a cancer cell’s ability to divide and grow. Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses strong drugs to destroy cancer cells or keep them from dividing and growing. Chemotherapy for brain tumors might include an oral dose of medication, a periodic intravenous (IV) infusion, or medication that is placed at the site of the tumor during surgery. Common brain cancer chemotherapy drugs include carmustine (Gliadel wafers), temozolomide, and a combination of lomustine, procarbazine and vincristine. Palliative care: Palliative care addresses pain and other symptoms caused by treatment or the cancer itself. Palliative therapies can include medications to address symptoms like pain and nausea, skin care to relieve dry skin at radiation therapy sites, or supportive care like massage and aromatherapy. Radiation therapy: Doctors currently use at least six different types of radiation therapy to treat various benign and malignant brain tumors. Radiation therapy typically begins after surgery to remove a tumor. You may receive conventional radiation therapy, three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3CRT), intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), proton therapy, stereotactic radiosurgery (sometimes called by the brand names Gamma Knife or CyberKnife), or fractionated stereotactic radiation therapy. Targeted therapy: Similar to chemotherapy, targeted therapy uses medications that target certain aspects of the specific cancer involved. For example, in a cancer cell that requires a particular protein to invade adjacent tissues, a targeted therapy might block the cell’s ability to create that specific protein. The two main targeted therapy medications currently in use for brain tumors are bevacizumab and larotrectinib. Secondary brain cancers may also be treated using these therapies, though the goal of treatment may lean more toward relieving symptoms than achieving remission. Metastatic brain tumors may be treated more or less aggressively than a primary tumor based on whether the original cancer is in remission or continuing to spread. Brain Tumor Survival Rate After diagnosis with a brain tumor, many people want to know their odds of surviving it. The good news is five-year survival rates for several types of tumors continue to extend as new treatments become available. Benign tumors usually offer a very good prognosis, because they do not spread into adjacent tissues or throughout the body. In a few cases, a benign tumor might be located in a sensitive, inoperable area of the brain, which could lead to a poorer prognosis. But on the average, most people survive benign brain tumors. Survival rates for primary malignant brain tumors depends on a wide variety of factors, including grade of the cancer, how well the tumor responds to treatment, and the individual patient’s age and overall health at the time of diagnosis. For example, glioblastoma offers a poorer prognosis for survival than ependymoma. Your doctor will be able to give you specific information regarding your prognosis after diagnosing and grading your particular type of brain tumor.