Being told you have brain cancer can be frightening and overwhelming. You’re living with symptoms that affect your function and quality of life. At the same time, you have to learn about a complicated topic and make difficult decisions.
The neuro-oncology team at Memorial Cancer Institute can guide you through this challenging time. We offer precise diagnosis, multiple advanced treatment options and support throughout your journey.
What We Treat
Neuro-oncology focuses on brain cancer, including:
- Astrocytoma, which begins in nervous system cells called astrocytes
- Brain metastases, when cancer spreads from another site to your brain
- Glioblastoma and glioma, which start in glial cells
- Medulloblastoma, which starts in the cerebellum, near your brain stem
- Meningioma, which originates in the meninges (layers of tissue that protect your brain and spinal cord)
- Oligodendroglioma, which starts in the frontal or temporal lobes
- Neurologic complications from brain cancer and cancer treatments
Diagnosing Brain Cancer
Waiting for a diagnosis can be stressful for you and your loved ones. We have precise technology on-site and experts ready to interpret the results. This enables us to provide answers as quickly as possible so you can begin the treatment journey.
Testing may include:
- Blood tests: A blood test can detect substances circulating in your system that indicate cancer.
- Biopsy: We take a small sample of suspicious tissue, then examine it under a microscope. Our pathologists can determine whether the cells are abnormal and what kind of cancer is present.
- Genetic tests: We also test the tissue sample for genetic and molecular changes. This can help us diagnose the tumor type and provide vital information about which treatments the tumor may respond to.
- Imaging tests: We use advanced imaging tests to take pictures of your brain and spinal cord. This can help determine whether you have a tumor. Examples include MRI, CT scan, positron emission tomography (PET) scan, and special X-rays that map your brain using a contrast dye.
- Neurological exam: We ask a series of questions and administer simple tests to check your brain, spinal cord and nerve function. The neuro exam gives us information about your mental status, coordination, senses, reflexes and more.
- Visual field exam: This assesses the total area of your vision. It can help determine whether something is affecting the area of your brain that controls sight.
Brain Cancer Treatment
Your team works together to design a treatment plan that focuses on destroying the tumor and alleviating symptoms. We aim to protect nearby tissue and preserve as much function as possible.
Your treatment options might include:
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy circulates in your bloodstream and destroys cancer cells.
- Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy uses medications that prompt your immune system to attack cancer cells.
- Medications: Medications, such as corticosteroids and antiseizure medications, can help manage brain tumor symptoms.
- Radiation therapy: Beams of radiation can shrink a tumor in preparation for surgery or relieve neurologic symptoms from advanced disease. We offer state-of-the-art radiation options, including stereotactic radiosurgery to target small, precise areas.
- Surgery: Our neurosurgeons can remove tumor tissue while preserving and protecting nearby structures. We use special software to navigate delicate, vital brain tissue and nerves.
- Targeted therapy: These medications fight brain tumors by blocking certain proteins on cancerous cells. For example, angiogenesis inhibitors block the growth of new blood vessels that can feed a tumor.
Throughout the cancer journey, we offer hope, comfort and education to you and your family. We make sure you understand:
- Your diagnosis and stage
- Your treatment options
- The risks and benefits of every option
- What to expect during treatment and beyond
- Chances of remission and cure
You can easily access several supportive care experts who can guide you through the process. Palliative care physicians and nurses help you manage symptoms and make treatment decisions. Psychologists can address the anxiety and depression that often accompany a cancer diagnosis. And genetic counselors can help you understand your diagnosis and how it might affect your relatives.
As you complete treatment, we make sure you are ready for survivorship. We give you a personalized survivorship care plan that outlines a schedule of follow-up tests and appointments. It also explains the potential long-term effects of your treatments and provides recommendations to maximize your health.
Brain Tumor Care: Why Choose Memorial Cancer Institute?
When you come to Memorial for brain tumor care, you’ll find:
- Team approach to cancer care: Your care team may include several specialists, including neurologists, neurosurgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, oncology nurses, pathologists, cognitive neuropsychologists and neuro-rehabilitation therapists. They collaborate closely to plan comprehensive treatment, monitor your progress and make adjustments as needed.
- Advanced surgical approaches: We offer leading-edge surgical technologies, such as CyberKnife® radiosurgery, laser ablation and tumor embolization. These approaches remove the tumor yet minimize any impact on your brain function. We carefully map your brain to design our surgical plan and often perform surgery while you are awake. These strategies help us maintain your language abilities, motor skills, balance and more.
- Compassionate care: Navigating a brain cancer diagnosis and treatment can be frightening and confusing. We treat more than cancer — we focus on your overall health and mental well-being. At Memorial, you have access to integrative medicine specialists, psychologists, social workers, nutritionists, palliative care professionals, and physical and occupational therapists.
- Trusted experts: Our neuro-oncologists are board certified and fellowship trained to assess and treat all types of brain tumors. They are experts in the many sophisticated treatment options we offer.
- Clinical research: Our oncologists, radiologists and surgeons have access to advanced treatments used at top academic centers. We also conduct clinical trials to improve diagnosis and treatment in neuro-oncology. This means you have access to innovative treatment options that offer you the best chance at remission and cure.