Other Drug Treatments for Adult Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors

Some drugs commonly used in people with brain tumors do not treat the tumors directly, but they may help lessen symptoms from the tumor or its treatment.


Corticosteroid drugs such as dexamethasone (Decadron) are often given to reduce swelling around brain tumors. This may help relieve headaches and other symptoms.

Anti-seizure drugs (anticonvulsants)

Drugs may also be given to lower the chance of seizures in people with brain tumors. Different anti-seizure drugs can be used. Because many of these drugs can affect how other drugs such as chemotherapy work in the body, they are not usually given unless the tumor has caused seizures.


The pituitary gland helps control the levels of many different hormones in the body. If the pituitary gland is damaged by the tumor itself or by tumor treatments (such as surgery or radiation therapy), you may need to take pituitary hormones or other hormones to replace those missing.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Chang SM, Mehta MP, Vogelbaum MA, Taylor MD, Ahluwalia MS. Chapter 97: Neoplasms of the central nervous system. In: DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015.

Dorsey JF, Hollander AB, Alonso-Basanta M, et al. Chapter 66: Cancer of the central nervous system. In: Abeloff MD, Armitage JO, Niederhuber JE. Kastan MB, McKenna WG, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier; 2014.National Comprehensive Cancer Network.

NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Central Nervous System Cancers. V.1.2017. Accessed at www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/cns.pdf on September 19, 2017.

Last Medical Review: September 30, 2017 Last Revised: November 8, 2017

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