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Steroids for Brain Tumours

Why are steroids used for brain tumours?

Steroids are commonly given to reduce and prevent inflammation around a brain tumour, particularly after surgery or during radiotherapy. The inflammation causes oedema, which is when plasma-like fluid builds up in the spaces between brain cells.

Taking steroids for a brain tumour reduces the pressure inside the skull, which helps to ease headaches and other ‘pressure’ symptoms, but it does not affect the brain tumour itself. Painkillers may also be needed to help ease headaches.

What type of steroid is used for brain tumours?

The most common steroid given to brain tumour patients in the UK is called Dexamethasone. This is a corticosteroid drug, meaning that it is based on cortisol, an anti-inflammatory hormone naturally produced by the adrenal glands in response to a stressful situation. Dexamethasone is synthetically produced and can be taken orally in tablet or liquid form, or given by injection.

Page last updated in January 2019. Next review September 2019.

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