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Medications for Brain Tumors

Here are the basics about each of the medicines below. Only common problems with them are listed.

Prescription Medicines

Corticosteroids

  • Dexamethasone

Anti-seizure Medicines

  • Levetiracetam
  • Lacosamide
  • Brivaracetam
  • Clobazam
  • Carbamazepine
  • Valproic acid
  • Phenytoin

Pain Relievers

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in higher doses:

  • Indomethacin
  • Naproxen
  • Celecoxib

Opioids

Over the Counter Pain Relievers

  • Aspirin
  • NSAIDs in lower doses
  • Acetaminophen

Prescription Medicines

 

Corticosteroids

  • Dexamethasone

This medicine is used for a short time to ease swelling in the brain. This will help with head pain.

Problems may be:

  • Feelings of hunger
  • Weight gain
  • Acne
  • Muscle weakness
  • Problems sleeping
  • High blood glucose
  • High blood pressure
  • Achy joints
 

Anti-seizure Medicines

  • Levetiracetam
  • Lacosamide
  • Brivaracetam
  • Clobazam
  • Carbamazepine
  • Valproic acid
  • Phenytoin

These medicines are given to control seizures.

Some problems from levetiracetam may be:

  • Rashes
  • Irritability
  • Mental status changes
  • Loss of contact with reality

Some problems from lacosamide may be:

  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness
  • Headache
  • Double vision

Some problems from brivaracetam may be:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lightheadedness
  • Tiredness

Some problems from clobazam may be:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Drooling
  • Problems passing stool
  • Problems controlling body movements
  • Problems speaking
  • Tiredness
  • Problems sleeping
  • Changes in behavior

Some problems from carbamazepine may be:

  • Mental status changes
  • Rashes or severe skin reactions

Some problems from valproic acid may be:

  • Tiredness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Rashes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Belly pain
  • Lack of hunger
  • Vision problems
  • Hair loss
  • Weight gain

Some problems from phenytoin are:

  • Rashes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Gum swelling
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Mental status changes
 

Pain Relievers

NSAIDs in higher doses, such as:

  • Indomethacin
  • Naproxen
  • Celecoxib

NSAIDs are used to control pain and swelling.

Some problems may be:

  • Stomach irritation, ulcers, and bleeding
  • Allergic reactions
  • Kidney damage
  • Liver damage
 

Opioids

  • Codeine
  • Pentazocine
  • Morphine
  • Meperidine
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydromorphone
  • Methadone
  • Oxycodone

There is no substitute for opioids to treat severe pain. But, these drugs are addicting and the risk for opioid use disorder is high. These medicines are mainly used for a short time after surgery.

Possible side effects:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Sleepiness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Itchiness
  • Constipation
  • Allergic reactions
  • Breathing problems
  • Taking too much—can lead to death

Over-the-counter Pain Relievers

  • Aspirin
  • NSAIDs in lower doses
  • Acetaminophen

Possible side effects:

  • Stomach irritation
  • Ulcers
  • Bleeding
  • Allergic reactions
  • Kidney damage
  • Liver damage

Acetaminophen is the common pain reliever used for mild to mid-level pain. Allergic reactions that damage blood cells or rashes can happen. Liver damage can happen if you take too much.

REFERENCES:

About brain tumors. American Brain Tumor Association website. Available at: https://www.abta.org/about-brain-tumors. Updated July 14, 2021.

Astrocytoma and oligodentroglioma in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/astrocytoma-and-oligodendroglioma-in-adults. Accessed July 13, 2021.

Meningioma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/meningioma. Accessed July 13, 2021.

Other drug treatments for adult brain and spinal cord tumors. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/brain-spinal-cord-tumors-adults/treating/other-drug-treatments.html. Accessed July 14, 2021.

Overview of intracranial tumors. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic-disorders/intracranial-and-spinal-tumors/overview-of-intracranial-tumors. Accessed July 14, 2021.

Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD  Last Updated: 7/14/2021