Treatment for secondary brain cancer

Main treatments

It is usually not possible to cure secondary brain cancer. But treatment can be given to control the cancer and to improve your quality of life. Treatments can involve chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

You may also be seen by the palliative care team at this time. This team will help with any symptoms that may occur and to support you and your family throughout your treatment.


Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to cure or control cancer. Some patients are given chemotherapy to shrink their tumour, slow the growth or control their symptoms. Your doctor will tell you if you are suitable for this treatment.

Many cancer patients receive a combination of two or three chemotherapy drugs. Chemotherapy can also be given before or after radiotherapy and surgery. Chemotherapy drugs are either injected into your bloodstream or given in tablet form. Your doctor will decide the type and dose of your chemotherapy. Sometimes patients are given chemotherapy directly into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Please see our booklet Understanding Chemotherapy and Other Cancer Drugs, which you can download from our "Publications about cancer treatment side effects" list on the right hand side of this page, for more details.


Radiotherapy is the use of high-energy rays that are aimed directly at your tumour to kill or shrink the cancer cells. Download our booklet Understanding Radiotherapy, also listed in our "Important cancer information booklets" on the right hand side of this page, for more information.

Learn more about treatments

Side effects

The type of side-effects you get will depend on the type of treatment, the dose, the duration and your own general health. Some treatments make you lose your appetite or feel sick. Others cause diarrhoea or hair loss. Many treatments cause you to feel very tired (fatigue). Your doctor will discuss any likely side-effects before treatment.

Remember the aim of your treatment is to control your cancer and your symptoms. Your doctor will choose the drugs and dosage carefully so that you get as few side-effects as possible.

Learn more about side effects

Clinical trials

If a treatment looks like it might be helpful, it is given to patients in research studies called clinical trials. Trials may be taking place at the hospital you are attending. If you are interested in taking part, talk to your doctor. He or she can tell you if the trial would suit you or not.

Learn more about clinical trials

Date Last Reviewed: 
Monday, January 28, 2019