When you are diagnosed with a brain tumour, there are several ways your health team may treat you. One of these is by chemotherapy. This is the use of drugs to destroy tumour cells by disturbing their growth. Chemotherapy is sometimes used on its own, sometimes together with radiotherapy, or it may be used before or after surgery.
Chemotherapy is the use of cytotoxic (anti-cancer) drugs that affect the growth of tumour cells by interfering with the way they divide and create copies of themselves.
Chemotherapy acts on all dividing cells, including healthy cells, but healthy cells are able to repair themselves better than tumour cells, so fewer of them die after treatment.
Your medical team will choose the appropriate chemotherapy treatment for you based on:
Chemotherapy may be given:
Chemotherapy will be given to you in a series of treatments separated by rest periods. One treatment session and rest period is called a 'cycle' and a number of cycles make up the 'course' of treatment. There are various ways that chemotherapy can be given:
Typically a course of treatment may last 3-6 months, consisting of 4-8 cycles. You may have chemotherapy for a few days every few weeks.
Individual treatment plans vary, however – yours will be designed specifically for you.
Chemotherapy is generally given as an outpatient treatment, which means that you don't have to stay in hospital overnight, although in certain circumstances you will need to. A member of your health team will talk to you about this before you start your treatment.
Side-effects vary from person to person and according to the drugs you have been given. As chemotherapy (temporarily) acts on healthy cells as well as tumour cells though, it may cause some unpleasant short-term side-effects, which commonly include:
Side-effects tend to gradually disappear over time once the treatment is complete, but if you are concerned about any of your side-effects, please remember to speak to your health team.
If you experience shortness of breath or an irregular heartbeat, tell your health team as soon as possible.
You will be monitored for any changes to the tumour, sometimes during and sometimes following treatment. This can be through the use of scans ('MRI' and 'CT' scans) to see whether the tumour is shrinking.
You will have check-up appointments following treatment, which will sometimes include scans. These appointments may continue for a number of years after your chemotherapy has finished.
If you have further questions, need to clarify any of the information on this page, or want to find out more about research and clinical trials, please contact our team:
0808 800 0004 (free from landlines and mobiles)
01252 749 999
Phone lines open Mon-Fri, 09:00-17:00
You can also join our active online community on Facebook - find out more about our groups.