What Happens After Treatment for Adult Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors?

For some people with brain or spinal cord tumors, treatment can remove or destroy the tumor. Completing treatment can be both stressful and exciting. You may be relieved to finish treatment, but find it hard not to worry about the tumor coming back. (When a tumor comes back after treatment, it is called recurrence.) This is a very common concern in people who have had a brain or spinal cord tumor.

It may take a while before your fears lessen. But it may help to know that many cancer survivors have learned to live with this uncertainty and are leading full lives. Understanding Recurrence, gives more detailed information on this.

For other people, the tumor may never go away completely. Some people may continue to be treated with radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or other treatments to try to keep the tumor in check. Learning to live with a tumor that does not go away can be difficult and very stressful. It has its own type of uncertainty. Managing Cancer as a Chronic Illness covers more on this.

Follow-up care

If you have completed treatment, your doctors will still want to watch you closely. It’s very important to keep all follow-up appointments. During these visits, your doctors will ask about symptoms, examine you, and may order lab tests or imaging tests such as MRI scans to look for a recurrence of the tumor. In some cases, some of the tumor may still be left behind after treatment. Even tumors that have been treated successfully can sometimes come back.

Whether the tumor was removed completely or not, your health care team will want to follow up closely with you, especially in the first few months and years after treatment to make sure there is no progression or recurrence. Depending on the type and location of the tumor and the extent of the treatment, the team will decide which tests should be done and how often.

During this time, it is important to report any new symptoms to your doctor right away, so the cause can be found and treated, if needed. Your doctor can give you an idea of what to look for. If you need further treatment at some point, the doctor will go over your options with you.

Should your tumor come back, Understanding Recurrence has information on how to manage and cope with this phase of your treatment.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: March 5, 2014 Last Revised: January 21, 2016

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