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What is a brain tumor?

A brain tumor is an abnormal growth of tissue in the brain, which may either come from any part within the brain or be deposited in the brain from a cancer from elsewhere outside of the brain. Brain tumors may be classified as benign (non-cancerous), malignant (cancerous), or sometimes in-between depending on their behavior. Patients with primary brain malignant tumors are most often diagnosed after the age of 50 and its occurrence in males is slightly more common than in females. Even though primary malignant brain tumors make up only 0.8 % of all cancer diagnoses in Taiwan, around 700 new cases are diagnosed each year. Metastatic diseases affecting the central nervous system occur much more frequently.

Treatment of brain tumors

There are different types of brain tumors, which are named based on the type of cell and the grade of the tumor. Treatment of brain tumors is based on the type that you have, the grade of the tumor, and the completeness of surgical excision. Generally speaking, surgery is commonly viewed as the main treatment for grade I and II tumors, and combined modality treatment, including surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy, is often involved in the treatment of grade III and IV tumors. The addition of radiotherapy can further improve local control of these patients.

Radiotherapy for brain tumors

Radiotherapy is mostly used to treat high grade tumors or patients with gross residual tumors after surgical excision. The course of radiotherapy varies according to the type of cell and the grade of the tumor, but usually takes about 4-6 weeks. Advances in radiotherapy technology, such as intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), have led to the decrease of adverse effects after treatment in patients with brain tumors. In addition to the X-ray based radiation therapy, proton therapy, with its unique physical properties, has made it possible to further reduce unnecessary radiation to normal brain tissue, resulting in the preservation of more normal brain functions.

Article author: Dr. Chen-Kan Tseng