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If your oncologist has recommended chemotherapy as part of your brain cancer treatment plan, you may have several questions about what to expect. It can be difficult to say with certainty what your experience will be like, but your treatment team can give you a general idea based on your specific diagnosis, medical history and chemotherapy prescription.

While every person’s experience is different, there are several things that every person who is considering brain cancer chemotherapy (also known as chemo) should know.

Chemotherapy can be administered in several ways.

Some drugs are given intravenously (injected into a vein); these drugs travel through the bloodstream to reach the brain. Other medications are delivered directly to the brain or spinal column via a small reservoir that is implanted under the scalp. For patients who are also undergoing brain cancer surgery, slow-releasing medications can be placed in the brain during an operation, where they will dissolve gradually over several days and deliver medications directly to the tumor.

The most common side effects are hair loss, nausea, diarrhea and complications from low blood counts.

Chemo works by damaging rapidly dividing cells. This can destroy cancerous cells, but it can also destroy healthy cells, leading to unpleasant side effects. Complications usually go away after treatment is complete, but there are also options for managing them during treatment. For instance, your medical oncologist (an oncologist who specializes in chemotherapy) can prescribe steroids to increase your appetite or anti-nausea medications to help prevent vomiting.

The newest chemotherapy drugs are first offered through clinical trials.

As new brain cancer medications are developed, they are compared to existing treatment options through clinical trials. During this phase, the medications are not offered in every setting, but only through certain research studies. Participating in a trial can be especially beneficial for individuals who have already completed one or more chemotherapy cycles but have not seen a significant response.

At Moffitt Cancer Center, you can consult with experienced medical oncologists who can help you determine if brain cancer chemotherapy is right for you. To request an appointment, call 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online. No referral is required.