Brain Cancer Care

A brain tumor is an abnormal growth of tissue in the brain or central spine that can disrupt proper brain function. Doctors refer to a tumor based on where the tumor cells originated, and whether they are cancerous (malignant) or not (benign).

The least aggressive type of brain tumor is often called a benign brain tumor. Benign brain tumors originate from cells within or surrounding the brain, do not contain cancer cells, grow slowly, and typically have clear borders that do not spread into other tissue. Malignant brain tumors contain cancer cells and often do not have clear borders. They are considered to be life threatening because they grow rapidly and invade surrounding brain tissue. Tumors that start in cells of the brain are called primary brain tumors. Primary brain tumors may spread to other parts of the brain or to the spine, but rarely to other organs. Metastatic or secondary brain tumors begin in another part of the body and then spread to the brain. Metastatic tumors are more common than primary brain tumors and are named by the location in which they begin.

The most common symptoms of brain tumors include headaches, nausea, vomiting, changes in hearing, speech or vision, difficulties with balance, problems with memory, or numbness in the arms or legs.

Brain Tumor Types

  • Acoustic Neuroma
  • Anaplastic Astrocytoma
  • Brain Metastases
  • Chordoma
  • Craniopharyngioma
  • Ependymoma
  • Gangliocytoma
  • Germinoma
  • Glioblastoma Multiforme
  • Glioma
  • Glomus Tumors
  • Hemangioblastoma
  • Meningioma
  • Neurocytoma
  • Neurofibroma
  • Neurofibromatosis
  • Oligodendroglioma
  • Parotid SCCA
  • Pituitary Adenoma
  • Schwannoma
  • Skull Base Tumors
  • Vestibular Schwannoma

Brain Tumor Treatment Options

3D-Conformal Radiation Therapy and Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)

3D-Conformal Radiation Therapy and Intensity and Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) are particularly effective on larger, less defined tumors of the brain and spinal cord. During 3D-Conformal treatments, a device called a “multi-leaf collimator” will shape the individual radiation beams to “conform” to your tumor according to the data and instructions it receives from the system computer. IMRT uses thousands of radiation “beamlets” from many different angles to deliver a single dose of radiation. The intensity of the “beamlets” can change during the treatment session to modulate the dose, so that the tumor receives a very precise high dose of radiation, while minimizing damage to surrounding, normal tissue.

Before each session, a radiation therapist will carefully position you on the treatment table using a body immobilizer for precise body placement. Image guidance will be used to confirm the location of the tumor before the therapy begins. During your treatment sessions, the radiation delivery system will revolve around you, delivering the radiation according to the plan set by your radiation oncologist. Each treatment session lasts from 10 to 30 minutes. Typically, you will be scheduled for five sessions a week for five to eight weeks. The sessions are pain-free and require no sedation so you can return to your normal activities right away.

Low Dose-Rate (LDR) Brachytherapy

Low Dose-Rate (LDR) or Seed Brachytherapy is occasionally used a brain cancer treatment. Small radioactive seeds, each the size of a rice grain, are implanted into the brain and release radiation over the course of several months. Eventually, they no longer emit radiation and can remain in the brain.

Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS)

Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS) combines extremely accurate image-guided tumor targeting with exact patient positioning, allowing higher doses of radiation to be delivered in fewer treatment sessions. SRS is only used for small, well-defined tumors in the brain. If you are a candidate for SRS, you will typically have one to five treatment sessions rather than the standard five to eight weeks of traditional External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT) treatment. During each session, a radiation therapist will carefully position you on the treatment table using a head immobilizer for precise head placement. Image guidance will be used to confirm the location of the tumor before the therapy begins. The machines are very quiet and you will feel no pain during the session.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is occasionally used to treat metastatic brain and spinal cancers. In general, chemotherapy is not as effective as surgery or radiation therapy because it is difficult for the drugs to pass the blood-brain barrier. When chemotherapy is administered, it is typically done orally or intravenously after radiation therapy. In certain brain cancers, chemotherapy drugs may be administered by implanting thin wafers with the chemotherapy drugs directly into the brain that slowly dissolve over time. Alternatively, the drugs can be administered directly to the cerebrospinal fluid through a thin tube that is inserted through a small hole in the skull.

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