A recurrent brain tumor, as the name suggests, is a tumor that has come back after treatment. This can sometimes happen years after the tumor has gone into remission (or been stabilized or shrunk) following treatment. The tumor can recur in the same place in the brain (called a local recurrence), nearby (regional recurrence) or somewhere else in the central nervous system (distant recurrence).
Tumor remissions can either be permanent or temporary, and it’s important for patients to talk with their doctors about the chances of recurrence and receive regular follow-up tests to see if a tumor has returned. If a recurrent brain tumor is detected, doctors will perform a new cycle of diagnostic tests to analyze the tumor and help figure out treatment options, which may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and targeted therapy, but in some cases may be administered in different combinations than during the first round of treatment.
There is, however, no single way to treat a recurrent brain tumor, and as with all brain tumors, treatment options depend on a variety of factors, including the tumor type, location and grade. Patients who have already had a standard course of radiation therapy may not be able to receive another, though radiosurgery, a more precise form of radiation therapy, may be effective. The symptoms of these tumors are often the same as the ones the patient had before, though sometimes they are more pronounced.