Brain and Spine Tumor FAQ
Read the answers to common questions asked by patients and families facing a new diagnosis of a primary brain tumor.
What caused my brain tumor?
We don’t know. Researchers have studied a wide variety of possible risk factors, including diet, occupational hazards, prior head injury — even water supply — but none has ever been established as a cause of primary brain tumors. Your tumor is not the result of anything you did or did not do.
Is this cancer inherited? Are my children or grandchildren at risk?
Only very rarely is a personal risk of brain tumor passed on genetically. Your children and grandchildren are not at a heightened genetic risk of a neurological cancer. Unless they are experiencing symptoms of a neurological tumor, there is no need for anyone in your family to see a doctor or have an MRI.
What treatments will I need?
Your treatment plan will depend on the type of tumor you have, your personal health and other individual factors. Most patients receive some combination of surgery, drug therapy, radiation therapy and other interventions, and many require support services. Because these services are provided by several different physicians, optimal care requires that all providers be highly coordinated.
Should I change my diet?
Nothing you ate caused your brain tumor, and there is no special diet that will cure it. The best course is to eat a well balanced diet during and after your treatment. If anything, you should be eating a diet that is slightly higher in protein to support your immune system and maintain muscle mass.
Can I take vitamins?
Taking a multivitamin once a day is sensible. However, patients are discouraged from taking antioxidants (like vitamin C) during radiation therapy or chemotherapy. At the atomic level, radiation and chemotherapy destroy cancer cells by oxidizing molecular bonds, so antioxidants can actually counteract the effects of your treatment. Taking antioxidants after your treatments are complete is not a problem.
Can I still work or travel?
Many patients are able to continue working during the active phase of their treatment and afterward. Traveling should be no problem, as long as you take your medications on time and can arrange to have your blood counts tested once a week. Some patients in the Brain and Spine Tumor Program have traveled oversees and had their blood counts faxed weekly to their care team.
Can I fly in an airplane if I have had brain surgery?
Patients who have had a brain surgery should wait 7 to 10 days following the operation to fly in an airplane. After that time, patients normally have no air travel restrictions.
Are there any new treatment options for brain tumors?
New therapies for brain tumors are constantly being developed. Because brain tumors are rare, only physicians who specialize in these cancers can be completely up to date on the latest treatment options. In many instances, physicians who specialize in neurological cancers will be able to offer patients the opportunity to participate in national clinical trials for advanced therapies.
Should I get a second opinion?
When you are diagnosed with a brain tumor, it is reasonable to seek a second opinion. Obtaining a second opinion from a qualified specialist can give you confidence about your current treatment plan. It can also open up new treatment options that have not been fully considered.