Severe Headaches and Brain Cancer: What to Do

October 22, 2021
Severe Headaches and Brain Cancer: What to Do

While there aren’t any pain receptors in the brain, the brain tumor can increase the amount of intracranial pressure that a patient experiences which could lead to the feeling of a headache. Sometimes the stress, anxiety, and tension of living with cancer can also create headaches for patients.These are some methods that have been helpful for alleviating headaches that you can try if this is something plaguing you.

  • NSAIDs: Over-the-counter NSAID medication like excedrin or advil might help since they are anti-inflammatory. This could help ease the intracranial pressure from the tumor. 

  • Steroids: Although the research is still inconclusive, doctors sometimes prescribe steroids like prednisone or dexamethasone for migraine headaches. They are prescribed because of the way that they combat inflammation. They are thought to decrease the recurrence of headaches, although they are not notoriously helpful in the short-term.

  • Botox: While there is still research being conducted on this, botox has been seen to relieve some kinds of headaches including migraines and spinal headaches. Before getting a procedure like this, check with your doctor to make sure that it won’t have a negative effect with other medications and treatments you’re receiving. 

  • Hot Showers: This seems like a simple solution, but some patients find that hot showers feel good when they’re experiencing headaches. 

  • Ice: Some people find that instead of heat, ice packs on the base of the skulls and behind the ears can provide immediate relief. Some people try icy hot patches on the forehead, too. 

  • Sumatriptan: Sometimes doctors will prescribe sumatriptan for headaches. This is a controlled substance because it’s not good for everyone with certain cardiovascular conditions. Check with your doctor if this is something they recommend for you.

  • Anxiety Medication: Some people find that their headaches aren’t related to the tumor and instead are tension headaches. Doctors sometimes prescribe medication like gabapentin to relieve anxiety and anxiety-related tension headaches. 

  • Vitamin Deficiencies: Sometimes headaches are side effects of vitamin B12 and  magnesium deficiencies. Talk to your doctor about if these supplements are the right choices for you and your symptoms. Some supplements can interact with cancer treatments. 

  • Food Sensitivities: Sometimes certain foods can trigger an immune response that leads to migraines. There are some over the counter food sensitivity tests that can help you determine if that’s the cause of your headache. 

  • Muscle Relaxers: For headaches caused by tension, doctors might prescribe muscle relaxers. Check with your doctor if this is the right option for you.

  • Acupuncture & Massage Therapy: These therapies stimulate endorphins which could reduce pain and suffering from headaches. If nothing else, these therapies could provide some much needed relief from the stress of other cancer-related treatments and procedures. 

As always, your situation is unique and a medical professional can help you choose the best option with the smallest amount of side effects possible. For those whose prognosis is short, they might prefer to seek assistance through palliative care

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