When someone is first diagnosed with a brain tumour, their healthcare team will use their clinical experience to develop a treatment plan they hope will be as effective as possible, while limiting the risks or side-effects. This is called first-line treatment.
The success of any first-line treatment will vary from person to person. Not only will different tumour types, grades and locations respond differently to different treatments, but a person’s age, unique genetic makeup and general health will also play a part in affecting how the treatment works.
Sometimes, first-line treatment may not be as effective at treating a brain tumour as hoped or cause such severe side-effects that the treatment will have to be stopped – it may even start working and then stop suddenly.
This is completely normal and just because one treatment hasn’t worked, it doesn’t mean others won’t.
If first-line care isn’t effective, the healthcare team will explore different treatment options to develop second-line treatment which might include different medication, clinical trials and experimental treatments. The factors described above will also affect how well second-line treatment works and, if it isn’t effective either, third- and even fourth-line treatment may be offered.
Unfortunately, it may be that there isn’t an alternative treatment that’s suitable or you and the healthcare team may make the tough decision that trying another treatment simply isn’t in anybody’s best interests – for example, if the treatment has very unpleasant or serious side-effects and there is little chance of success.
At this point, end of life care will begin. This is part of palliative care and it focuses on treating and easing the symptoms, rather than treating the brain tumour itself. This is often an extremely difficult time for anybody affected by a brain tumour and you can find more information about how to manage a terminal diagnosis here.