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.