Even when treatment has finished, there is always a chance the tumor will come back or recur. Most commonly, the regrowth occurs in the same spot as the first tumor. But it is possible for the tumor to grow somewhere else within the brain or central nervous system. There is no way to predict if and when there will be regrowth. You can appear tumor-free for years before testing shows new tumor growth. That is why it is important to continue seeing your health care team for follow-up appointments.
If you do experience a recurrence, it can be frightening for you and those who care for you. You will be asked to focus on making decisions about the next step in treatment. Talk with your doctor about all your options. The treatment approach may vary based on your health, your previous treatments, and the characteristics of the tumor. Sometimes, surgery is required to confirm that the tumor has recurred, the tumor is large, or causing pressure in the brain. There are a variety of chemotherapy treatments that may be offered. It is not as common to receive radiation at recurrence. This is a common time when clinical trials are considered. Consider seeking out a second opinion, ask your doctor these questions while taking notes and research all your options.
When learning of a recurrence, you may experience a variety of feelings: shock, anxiety, fear, anger, grief or loss of control. There are numerous organizations to help you cope. Talk with your health care provider about local resources that are available such as a counselor, social workers or support groups.
Symptoms of a recurrent brain tumor are often the same symptoms you had before, but can feel more pronounced. In addition, if the recurrent brain tumor is causing pressure on the brain, it may lead to headaches and seizures. It is important to talk with your health care provider about any symptoms that you have so they can work with you to make you feel as good as possible before starting additional treatment.
Finding out that you or your loved one have a recurrence can feel overwhelming. Doctors will perform many tests using medical equipment and terminology you are unfamiliar with. Learning this process can help you feel more comfortable and confident you are making the right medical decisions.
Learn where the tumor is located within the brain to help you understand what symptoms may occur.
Possible symptoms that can be related to the location of the brain tumor or increased pressure.
When a brain tumor is suspected or confirmed, your doctor will have you undergo one or more tests to diagnose or monitor it.
There are more than 120 types of brain tumors. See the most common brain tumor types.
It is important to have confidence in the doctor and the health care team doing your surgery or providing your treatment and follow-up care. Whether this is someone you have chosen yourself, or a doctor or surgeon you have been referred to, it’s important that you make sure that he or she is qualified.
Members of your neuro-oncology medical team that may be involved in your care.
Questions to ask your surgeon to help you decide if surgery is the best treatment option and prepare you for surgery.
Your medical team will work with you to create a treatment plan that’s right for you. Brain tumor treatment depends on many factors including: the results of diagnostic tests or biopsy; the size, location, and growth pattern of the tumor; medical condition, age, and health history of the patient; and the patient’s and family’s wishes. As you make your plan, it is important for you to understand all options and possible side effects so you can make the best decision for you or your loved one. A second opinion is sometimes helpful when faced with making treatment decisions. Ask your health care team about the timing and any guidance when seeking a second opinion.
Standard treatments include surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy.
For patients with brain tumors, clinical trials are treatment options to consider.
A recurrence can leave you feeling uncertain over what the future holds. Acknowledge your fears and concerns, as well as share your strength with others. Whether you decide to turn to family and friends, your medical team, social workers or support groups – online or in-person – never forget that you are not alone on your journey.
Brain cancer can impact all aspects of your life. There are resources available to help you cope.
Guidance on ways to care for yourself, your loved ones and read stories from other brain tumor patients.
Join the celebration of people who are fighting brain tumors while being an inspiration to those who are carrying forward.