Brain Tumor-Related Epilepsy

In almost half of patients with brain tumors, the tumor was discovered during imaging after they had a seizure for the first time. When someone has more than one unprovoked seizure, they are diagnosed with a brain condition known as epilepsy. When epilepsy is related to a brain tumor, seizures are caused by excessive firing of the neurons in and around the tumor.

Seizures can occur with any type of brain tumor, benign or malignant, but they are more common in low-grade, more benign tumors.

Comprehensive Care for Tumors and Seizures

Patients battling a brain tumor and seizures require treatment for both. Often, the surgery to remove the tumor is the best opportunity to remove the seizure focus and stop the seizures. However, sometimes seizures persist after surgery or develop later, and patients need ongoing treatment for their epilepsy. To provide this level of comprehensive care, the specialists at Northwestern Medicine Comprehensive Epilepsy Center collaborate with Lou and Jean Malnati Brain Tumor Institute at Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.

Some patients may benefit from an electroencephalogram (EEG), which records the electrical activity in the brain and identifies abnormalities, allowing physicians to better understand the seizure focus and risk for seizure recurrence. Armed with this knowledge, specialists can come up with a treatment plan.

Medication can help to reduce or stop seizures. However, patients who are already receiving brain tumor treatment might be battling lethargy and other negative side effects, so seizure medication needs to be carefully chosen. Epilepsy surgery can be an option in some patients whose seizures cannot be controlled by medication.