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Some tumors, particularly medulloblastomas, interfere with the flow of cerebrospinal fluid and cause hydrocephalus (accumulation of fluid in the skull). This causes a build-up fluid in the ventricles (the cavities) in the brain. Symptoms include nausea and vomiting, severe headaches, lethargy, difficulty staying awake, seizures, visual impairment, irritability, and tiredness.
Corticosteroids (commonly called steroids) such as dexamethasone (Decadron), are used to treat peritumoral edema. Side effects include high blood pressure, mood swings, increased risk of infection, stronger appetite, facial swelling, and fluid retention.
A shunt procedure may be performed to drain fluid. Shunts are flexible tubes used to reroute and drain the fluid.
Seizures are common in brain tumor cases, with younger patients having higher risks than older ones. Anti-epileptic medications, such as carbamazepine or phenobarbital, may treat seizures and are helpful in preventing recurrence. These drugs are not useful in preventing a first seizure, however, and they should not be used routinely to treat patients with newly diagnosed brain tumors. Anti-seizure medications should be used only for patients who have experienced a seizure.
Anti-seizure medications can interact with some of the chemotherapies used to treat brain cancers, including paclitaxel, irinotecan, interferon, and retinoic acid. Patients should discuss these interactions with their doctors.
Antidepressants can help treat the emotional side effects of associated with brain tumors. Support groups can also have great benefit for both patients and families.
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