Surgery remains the main method of treatment for most types of cancer. Neurosurgery in Germany can often be a curative measure in patients with brain neoplasms. However, brain tumors are also treatable with non-surgical methods. They not only complement the surgery, but can also replace it altogether. Let's discuss how to treat a brain tumor using conservative methods.
Is brain tumor treatable?
Non-surgical methods as a therapeutic remedy for tumors of intracranial localization often play a leading role in the treatment process, since it is not always possible to treat a brain tumor surgically. Often the tumor is located in the functionally active areas, and its surgical removal may pose a risk to the life of the patient.
Can a brain tumor be treated without surgeons? Yes, there are many other effective therapies that can significantly prolong a patient's life expectancy.
Whether the brain tumor can be treated depends on the degree of its malignancy. There are 4 such degrees.
As a rule, it is possible to cure the brain tumor completely if it is benign (grade 1). The risk of its recurrence is very low.
Tumors of the 2nd degree are also considered benign, but their prognosis is worse. Chances of curing a second degree brain tumor depend largely on the therapeutic methods applied and the age of the patient. On average, the recurrence-free period after treatment program lasts 3-5 years.
Starting at stage 3, the tumor is considered malignant. Unfortunately, in most cases even surgery does not lead to a complete cure. The risk of recurrence depends on whether the tumor has been completely removed. Since it is impossible to remove a brain tumor of grade 3 without surgery, recurrence occurs on average in 2-3 years.
Finally, a 4th degree tumor is characterized by the greatest malignancy. The most common type of this stage is glioblastoma. The life expectancy of patients who did not undergo surgery is only 4-12 months. In recent years, new methods of treatment have appeared in the developed countries that have the possibility to prolong a patient's life for up to several years without using surgical methods.
Basic non-surgical treatment for a brain tumor is radiation therapy. Radiosurgical and radiotherapy methods are both used. Radiosurgical method suggests the introduction of radioactive substances into the brain. The radiotherapy method includes remote irradiation.
The brain tumor is treated with radiation therapy in the following cases:
- After surgery, to reduce the risk of relapse or delay it
- As a palliative treatment to reduce the size of the tumor and alleviate the symptoms
- As an independent method of treatment, if the surgery is not carried out for some reason
Most common contraindication for surgery is the location of the tumor. Often it is localized in hard-to-reach or functionally active areas of the brain. Therefore, surgical removal carries a risk to the life of the patient or creates a significant neurological deficit.
There are other reasons:
- Patient's refusal from surgery
- Revealing of medical contraindications during the examination
- Low life expectancy
- Financial reasons (surgery is not cheap)
In many cases, the large size of the tumor and the high degree of malignancy influence doctors to decline performing such surgery. Treating a brain tumor with surgery and radiation therapy leads to the same prognosis for the patient. In this case, radiation ensures a similar life expectancy, but it does not carry the same risks and is better tolerated.
Radiation methods differ in accuracy, efficiency, degree of influence on surrounding tissues. In developed countries, new methods of radiation have been developed and are being applied. They apply a large dose of radiation on the tissue of the tumor, while hardly affecting healthy tissues.
Nowadays, the following types of radiation therapy for treatment of brain tumors are used:
- Remote radiation therapy. Same as an X-ray, only the radiation dose is much higher. Before conducting radiation, diagnostics (MRI or CT scan) is performed to determine the exact location of the tumor. This is the simplest radiation method, which had been used for a long time in oncology. It has a big drawback: the surrounding tissues also receive a fairly high radiation dosage.
- Three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy. A more progressive method of radiation, which minimizes the dose of radiation for the healthy tissues. With the help of an MRI, a precise tumor localization is carried out. Then, a lot of beams of gamma rays are sent to the tumor from different directions.
- Modulated intensity radiotherapy. A method of 3D radiation therapy, which controls the dose of radiation. With this technique, a doctor can increase the radiation dose for a tumor and reduce it for healthy tissues that have the greatest sensitivity.
- Stereotactic radiosurgery. Stereotactic radiosurgery makes it possible to cure a brain tumor in hard-to-locate localization in one or several sessions of high-precision and high-dose radiation. The Gamma Knife or Cyberknife settings are used. Today this type of treatment has become more comfortable for the patient, due to precise beam alignment, therapy can be performed without the use of stereotaxic frames.
- Proton therapy of brain tumor. It uses positively charged particles instead of X-rays. It is characterized by its high safety feature, since healthy tissues are minimally damaged. In this case, the tumor receives a large dose of radiation. The disadvantage of the method is the high cost for treatment.
Whether it is possible to cure a brain tumor using radiotherapy alone depends on the degree of its malignancy. With benign tumors, it is usually possible to achieve a sufficiently long life expectancy of the patient. Tumors may not recur after treatment or the relapse-free period may last 5-10 years or more. However, in case of malignant tumors, the disease does not go away forever, because it is almost impossible to stop the growth of the brain tumor without the risk of recurrence with radiation therapy alone. This method is less effective than surgical treatment. Its advantage is higher levels of safety and better tolerability of treatment.
Chemotherapy in the treatment of brain tumors is much less important than in the treatment of other cancers. The reason for that is that the brain is separated from other organs and systems by the blood-brain barrier. Most chemotherapy drugs cannot overcome it. Consequently, after their introduction into a vein or by ingestion, medications simply do not reach the tumor tissues and thus cannot affect it.
Chemotherapy is used to treat brain tumors in the following cases:
- If the tumor grows very quickly
- If the surgery has not been performed, chemotherapy can be used in combination with radiation therapy
- If the surgery was performed, chemotherapy drugs are introduced through the catheter directly into the ventricle of the brain, thus breaking the blood-brain barrier
- If the patient is diagnosed with lymphoma or medulloblastoma, these types of neoplasms respond better to chemotherapy
However, more often the treatment is conducted without the use of chemotherapy. Often chemotherapy is poorly tolerated by the patient, while not increasing life expectancy and having a minimal impact on the growth of the tumor.
For some types of tumors, targeted therapy drugs are used. Among them:
Angiogenesis inhibitors. Monoclonal antibodies are used to block the vascular endothelial growth factor. The tumor is constantly growing and should receive nutrients from the blood vessels. Without this its growth slows down significantly.
Studies have shown that angiogenesis inhibitors can be used in the treatment of glioblastoma after surgery to delay relapse. These drugs do not significantly affect life expectancy, but they can reduce the doses of steroid hormones used (a drug that prevents brain edema), which are not always well tolerated by patients. Treatment of glioblastoma in Germany often includes this additional beneficial for the patients option.
Protein inhibitors mTOR. It is a protein that helps the tumor gain its weight. The drugs that block this protein are used in the treatment of astrocytomas. Treatment of brain tumors with mTOR inhibitors increases the life span of the patient.
Electric field therapy
As studies have shown, electric field therapy inhibits the growth of tumor cells, with minimal damage to healthy tissues. This treatment of brain tumor prolongs the life of the patient. At the same time, it is safe and is free of serious side effects.
Electric field therapy is used in treatment of glioblastoma. Since treatment of a malignant brain tumor with chemotherapy alone is not always successful, the addition of electric field therapy to chemotherapy can be effective.
The essence of the method is that four electrodes are fixed onto the patient's head. Batteries are located in a backpack, which a person always carries with them. Such brain tumor treatment in combination with chemotherapy prolongs life on average by more than 20 months.
Not every brain tumor is curable. Sometimes the goal of therapy is not the patient's recovery, but the elimination of the main symptoms in order to improve the quality of the patient's life. Symptomatic drugs always complement the basic treatment of a brain tumor.
Such medicines include:
- Corticosteroids – relieve headache, eliminate the inflammatory process after radiation therapy, and prevent cerebral edema
- Anticonvulsants – reduce the number of seizures in people with brain tumors
- Hormonal treatment – is used in hormone-producing tumors (for example, in pituitary neoplasms) to correct metabolic disorders
How to treat a brain tumor with folk remedies
Before treating a brain tumor with folk methods, it is necessary to make sure that the possibilities of traditional or scientific medicine have been exhausted.
Herbs and food products, minerals and bee products can only be used if:
- Treatment methods with proven clinical efficacy are used simultaneously
- The possibilities of the traditionally used therapeutic methods have been exhausted, and the disease has reached its terminal stage
Since it is not very effective to treat a brain tumor with folk remedies, this treatment is used solely to provide emotional calmness to the patient or to reduce the symptoms of the disease.
One should not have illusions about whether it is possible to cure a brain tumor with celandine, honey with propolis or hemlock. Brain tumor treatment with folk remedies does not affect the rate of tumor growth, the risk of its recurrence or the duration of patient's life. It only creates a person's illusion that he/she is doing something to restore their health, which provides psychological comfort and improves the quality of the last months of life.
At the same time, brain tumor, treatment with folk remedies is unsafe if it is used instead of, and not in addition to, surgery or radiotherapy. In this case, a person is mistakenly counting on the high efficiency of plant extracts or other remedies and he/she simply loses time. The tumor continues to develop, and the effectiveness of subsequent treatment is reduced.
Treatment in Germany
Each person decides where to treat a brain tumor based on their financial capacity. Oncology and neurosurgery are highly academic, and therefore expensive, branches of medicine.
Obviously, it is better to undergo treatment in clinics of developed countries, such as Germany. Most modern treatment methods are available in best hospitals in Germany: the newest types of radiation therapy, stereotactic radiosurgery, targeted therapy and other.
Many patients have problems organizing a trip to undergo therapy in the hospital abroad. However, all organizational issues can be solved with the use of Booking Health.
We will help:
- Choose a clinic
- Reduce waiting time for treatment
- Save up to 70% of the cost for treatment
- Arrange rehabilitation and restore good quality of life
As leaders in the field of medical tourism, we have direct agreements with all major clinics in Germany. Therefore, you can use the services of the world's best doctors at affordable prices.
You will receive an insurance from Booking Health. It will cover all unforeseen medical expenses – the initial cost of treatment is guaranteed not to increase. In addition, you will save a lot of money, because you do not have to pay insurance for foreign patients, which can reach 50% or more of the total cost of the therapeutic program.
Choose treatment abroad and you will for sure get the best results!
Author: Dr. Nadezhda Ivanisova