What Is Stage Four Brain Cancer?

Article Details
  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 July 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Stage four brain cancer is considered the most serious and end stage form of this type of cancer. With this stage, the tumor which started in the brain has become metastatic, spreading to other organs and parts of the body. Unfortunately, stage four brain cancer is largely inoperable and is eventually fatal. Treatment options such as chemotherapy or radiation treatment may help to reduce pain and can sometimes prolong the life of the patient for a few months. The two-year survival rate for those diagnosed with stage four brain cancer is extremely low.

Symptoms of stage four brain cancer may vary according to the area of the brain affected by the disease. Some common symptoms include headache, seizures, nausea, vomiting, and weight loss. Muscle weakness, fatigue, and loss of coordination are also common at this stage of the disease. Some patients may experience hallucinations or experience noticeable behavioral changes. Visual changes, or even blindness, may occur, depending upon the portion of the brain which is affected by the tumor.

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Surgery may be helpful in some cases of stage four brain cancer, although the results are unpredictable. Surgical intervention is designed to remove as much of the tumor as possible in an effort to reduce symptoms and perhaps slow the progression of the disease. This type of treatment is not a cure since the cancer cells have migrated to other parts of the body. Surgery may be able to allow the patient to have a better quality of life and may help to prolong life for a few additional weeks or months.

Chemotherapy is one of the standard treatments used in stage four brain cancer. Strong drugs containing chemicals which are designed to destroy cancer cells and slow the progression of the disease are given, either as an oral medication or through a tube known as an IV which is inserted into a vein. Hair loss, nausea, and vomiting frequently occur during chemotherapy. Additional medications can usually be given to help combat severe bouts of nausea.

Radiation therapy is another type of treatment that is standard for stage four brain cancer. This type of therapy involves the use of high levels of radiation in an attempt to kill cancer cells. Side effects of radiation therapy are often similar to those reported during chemotherapy. These two treatment options are often used together, especially in advanced types of cancer. Any questions or concerns about stage four brain cancer or the most appropriate treatment options for an individual situation should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

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