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The Clinical Cancer Center at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin provides a full range of services focused on the physical, emotional and social well-being of patients and their families.

Support Groups, Classes and Events

In response to COVID-19, we are offering a limited number of support groups, classes and events for patients and families dealing with cancer. There are virtual and in-person options.

View our Classes and Events

Managing Your Overall Health

Patients with brain and spine tumors can experience a number of health problems that are related to their cancer. In addition, chemotherapy drugs can cause a variety of side effects. Neuro-oncologists manage their patient’s overall health and individual response to drug treatment.

Seizures

Brain tumors can disrupt the normal flow of electrical signals within the brain, leading to seizures. Approximately 30 percent of brain tumor patients have experienced one or more seizures by the time of their diagnosis. Another 30 percent will have a seizure at some time as their disease progresses. All patients who have had a seizure are placed on an anti-seizure medication (one that will not interact with the patient’s chemotherapy or render it less effective). Medical management greatly reduces the risk of seizure, and most patients become seizure-free.

Chemotherapy Side Effects

Drug side effects vary widely, and they depend on the specific chemotherapy agent used and the individual patient. Some drugs are tolerated better than others. For most patients, nausea can be prevented with medications. Constipation can be managed through the use of a bowel regimen. Treatment options are also available for fatigue, diarrhea and other potential side effects.

Low Blood Count

Radiation therapy and chemotherapy can cause low blood counts (low levels of red blood cells, white blood cells and blood platelets). This increases the risk of infection, bleeding and other complications. Patients who are on chemotherapy undergo weekly blood tests to allow physicians to monitor their blood counts and intervene if necessary. If a patient’s red blood cells or platelets reach a critical level, blood transfusion can be an option. If the white blood cell count is too low, a drug called filgrastim (Neupogen) can be effective at boosting white cell production.

Infection

Patients with a low white blood cell count are at a higher risk of infection — anything from urinary tract infection to pneumonia to sepsis. The care team closely monitors all chemotherapy patients for signs of an infection. Suspected infections typically require evaluation in the emergency department and often hospitalization.

Blood Clots, Deep Vein Thrombosis

All cancer patients are at an increased risk for blood clots. (Cancer tends to make the blood “stickier,” and many patients are less mobile, which further contributes to clotting risk.) All neurological cancer patients and their families receive education on deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a clot that usually forms in the leg. Signs of DVT include a swelling of the calf (usually in just one leg) that is tender, painful or red.

DVTs are evaluated with ultrasound and managed with blood thinner medications. If a DVT breaks free, it can travel through the bloodstream to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism (PE), which can be life-threatening. Patients who experience symptoms of PE (such as chest pain or shortness of breath) should be evaluated in the emergency department.

Brain and Spine Tumor FAQ

The Brain Stem Newsletter

Each issue of The Brain Stem presents a feature article focusing on a different topic that relates to the care and treatment of our patients.

Virtual Visits Are Available

Safe and convenient virtual visits by video let you get the care you need via a mobile device, tablet or computer wherever you are. We’ll gather your medical records for you and get our experts’ input so we can offer treatment options without an in-person visit. To schedule a virtual visit, call 1-866-680-0505.

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Cancer and the COVID-19 Vaccine

There is currently no data that suggests current or former cancer patients should avoid getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Cancer can weaken your immune system, so we recommend that most patients get the vaccine as soon as possible.