Discharge Instructions for a Brain Tumor
You have been diagnosed with a brain tumor. This is the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells in the brain. Treatment for brain tumors may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of these 3. Be sure to follow any specific instructions given to you by your healthcare provider. The guidelines provided here are for general care.
Make sure you:
- Understand what you can and cannot do
- Keep your follow-up appointments
- Call your healthcare provider if you have any questions or are concerned about any symptoms
Home care after surgery
Surgery is the primary treatment for a brain tumor. You had a procedure called craniotomy. This is the surgical opening of the skull. Your doctor needed to do this to perform brain surgery. Recovery after a craniotomy varies, depending on the purpose of the procedure. Talk to your doctor or nurse about what to do at home following surgery. They may recommend the following:
- Increase your activity gradually.
- Don't drive until your doctor says it's OK.
- Shower as needed, but keep your incision dry. You may wash your hair with mild soap after your stitches or staples have been removed. Pat it dry. Don't use oils, powders, lotions, or creams on your incision.
- Don't lift anything heavy until you're told you can.
- Take your medicine exactly as directed.
Home care after chemotherapy
Talk to your doctor or nurse about what to do at home following chemotherapy for a brain tumor. They will likely advise the following.
Prevent mouth sores
Many people get mouth sores during chemotherapy. So, don't be discouraged if you do, even if you are following all your doctor's instructions. Do the following to help prevent mouth sores or to ease discomfort:
- Brush your teeth with a soft-bristle toothbrush after every meal.
- Don't use dental floss if your platelet count is low, because you'll be at increased risk for bleeding. Your doctor or nurse will tell you if this is the case.
- Use an oral swab or special soft toothbrush if your gums bleed during regular brushing.
- Use any mouthwashes given to you as directed.
- If you can't tolerate regular methods, use salt and baking soda to clean your mouth. Mix 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda with a quart of water. Swish and spit.
- Watch your mouth and tongue for white patches. This can be a sign of fungal infection, a common side effect of chemotherapy. Be sure to tell your doctor about these patches. Medication can be prescribed to help you fight the fungal infection.
Manage other side effects
- Ask your doctor or nurse about exercise. Exercise keeps you strong and keeps your heart and lungs active. Walk as much as you can without becoming dizzy or weak.
- Let your doctor know if your throat is sore. You may have an infection that needs treatment.
- Remember, many patients feel sick and lose their appetites during treatment. Eat small meals several times a day to keep your strength up:
- Choose bland foods with little taste or smell if you are reacting strongly to food.
- Be sure to cook all food thoroughly. This kills bacteria and helps you avoid infection.
- Eat foods that are soft. They are less likely to cause stomach irritation.
- Keep clean. During treatment your body can't fight germs very well:
- Take short baths or showers with warm water. Avoid very hot or cold water.
- Use moisturizing soap. Treatment can make your skin dry.
- Apply moisturizing lotion several times a day to help relieve dry skin.
Home care after radiation therapy
Here's what to do at home following radiation therapy for a brain tumor.
- Don't scrub or use soap on the treated area.
- Ask your therapy team which lotion to use.
- Avoid sun on the treated area. Ask your therapy team about using a sunscreen.
- Don't remove ink marks unless your radiation therapist says it's OK. Don't scrub or use soap on the marks when you wash. Let water run over them and pat them dry.
- Protect your skin from heat or cold. Avoid hot tubs, saunas, heating pads, and ice packs.
- Wear soft, loose clothing to avoid rubbing your skin.
- Avoid pools and hot tubs during your treatment.
Other home care
- Stock up on easy-to-prepare foods.
- Eat foods high in protein and calories.
- Drink plenty of water and other fluids, unless directed otherwise.
- Ask your doctor before taking any vitamins.
- Be prepared for hair loss in the area being treated.
- If your mouth or throat becomes dry or sore, sip cool water. Ice chips may also help.
When to call your doctor
Call your doctor right away if you have any of the following:
- Signs of infection around the incision (redness, drainage, warmth, pain)
- The incision opens up or pulls apart
- Confusion or hallucinations
- Fainting or "blacking out"
- Loss of memory or trouble speaking
- Double or blurred vision; partial or total loss of vision
- Numbness, tingling, or weakness in your face, arms, hands, legs, or feet
- Stiffness in your neck
- Fever of 100.4?F (38?C) or higher, or chills, or as directed by your healthcare provider
- Severe sensitivity to light (photophobia) or severe headache
- Trouble controlling your bowels or bladder
- Worsening or persistent headache
- Excessive fatigue
- Persistent nausea or diarrhea
- New rash
- Any pain or swelling in your lower legs or calves