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Brain Cancer (cont.)

What Are Side Effects of Brain Cancer Treatments?

Treatment plans try to limit or reduce side effects associated with brain cancer treatment. However, most patients will experience some side effects; some side effects can be severe. People who undergo brain cancer treatment should ask about the potential side effects and help decide if the proposed treatment(s) will be worth the benefits and what to do if side effects appear.

Side effects of chemotherapy may include nausea, vomiting, hair loss, and weakness. The immune system is usually suppressed, which makes the person more susceptible to infections. Other organ systems such as the kidneys or reproductive organs may be damaged. Although these side effects usually decline as treatment ends, some may not, especially if other organ systems are damaged.

Radiation therapy has side effects similar to those listed above for chemotherapy, but because some organ systems do not obtain a direct radiation dose, the side effects can be less than those of chemotherapy. However, skin damage (reddish or darkened) and skin sensitivity may occur. Hair loss can also occur, especially in areas where the radiation enters the body; some hair loss is permanent.

Surgery can cause both temporary and permanent changes. Side effects such as brain swelling, damage to normal tissue, mental-status changes, muscle weakness, or changes in any brain-controlled function may occur. Although such side effects usually decline over time, some may become permanent.

Patients and brain cancer team members should carefully consider side effects; often some of them can be reduced by medical treatment and may not be permanent. Brain cancer patients who are candidates for treatment should understand that without surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy (or combinations of them) the prognosis or outlook for most patients is poor.

Last Reviewed 9/11/2017

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