What is Typical Treatment?

Three standard treatments exist for brain tumours:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy

Depending on the type of tumour, an observation approach is often used to monitor for any changes in the tumour. This is done wtih a series of scheduled MRIs or CT scans.

Treatment plans are individualized to the patient, and the type and grade of tumour.

Patients are usually followed by a variety of health care providers including oncologists, neuro-oncologists, neurologists and/or neurosurgeons.


Often surgery is the first treatment offered if the tumour is in an operable area. If surgery is not an option, a biopsy may be ordered.

The goal of surgery is to remove or de-bulk as much tumour as possible, and get an accurate diagnosis by the pathologist.

Surgery may include:

  • Brain tumour biopsy: to help determine the type of brain tumour
  • Brain tumour resection: The goal of a brain tumour resection is to remove as much of a brain tumour as safely as possible.
    • Removing all (gross total) or part of (sub-total) of a brain tumour might help to reduce symptoms that a patient has.
    • Determining to do a biopsy vs. resection depends on the location, size and type of tumour and symptoms. Sometimes age and health will also determine the decision.

Recent advances in brain surgery include:

  • Awake craniotomy: has helped and continues to help with mapping the brain
  • Having the patient reading and/or talking at the same time
  • These advances have added complexity and time to surgery 

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy involves administering high levels of radiation directly at a tumour. Standard radiation therapy lasts for 6 weeks, Monday to Friday for 30 treatments. Sub-types of Radiation Therapy are:

Stereotactic Radiosurgery is given in one single treatment.


Gamma Knife is used to treat meningiomas, pituitary tumours, acoustic neuromas, and secondary tumours.

  • (A diagram of Gamma Knife process is pictured at left)






Chemotherapy is the use of medication to stop or slow the growth of tumour cells. It is often given orally or intravenously.

Temodal® (or Temozolomide) is a common chemotherapy drug for brain tumour patients. It is often given concurrently with radiation therapy for high-grade gliomas. Find out more about Temodal with this Information Sheet.


Avastin® (Bevacizumab) is the first and only biologic treatment approved by Health Canada for recurrent glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), which offers an additional treatment option for people with the disease. Find out more about Avastin with this Information Sheet.


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