What is brain cancer?
Brain tumors are masses of abnormal cells in the brain. Tumors in the brain can be especially dangerous, as even those that are benign can grow large enough to press on other parts of the brain and cause damage to essential functions.
It is important to note that brain tumors rarely spread to other organs, although malignant (cancerous) tumors may spread within the central nervous system.
What are the signs of brain tumors?
Brain tumors can develop slowly over a long period of time or develop suddenly. When a tumor grows into brain tissue, it causes pressure inside the skull to rise. This intracranial pressure can cause symptoms such as:
- Blurred vision
- Balance problems
- Personality or behavior changes
- Drowsiness or coma
For most cancer types, the stage of the cancer is determined by if and how far the cancer has spread. However, with brain tumors, there is no formal staging system because the cancer does not typically spread to other parts of the body. Other factors that help determine a patient’s prognosis are age, functional status, tumor type, size and location of the tumor, extent of surgery and the types of genetic mutations driving cancer development and growth.
Every brain tumor is different, and thus, so are the symptoms and treatments. Your comprehensive care team will take into account all of your factors to determine the best treatment plan for you. During the cancer journey, patients will typically see a neuro-oncologist, neurosurgeon, radiation oncologist as well as a nurse navigator to guide them through their treatment plan. Standard treatments for adult brain cancer patients include:
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted therapy, immunotherapy and clinical trials
The brain and spine tumor program at Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at HCA Midwest Health provides comprehensive state-of-the-art medical care for patients with a variety of benign and malignant brain tumors.
“We specialize in personalized care for our community, tailoring patient’s treatment plans based on their genetic profile,” said Amandeep Kalra, MD, Medical Director of Neurooncology at Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at HCA Midwest Health. “We offer advanced cutting-edge cancer treatments including immunotherapy and clinical trials.”
Surgery on brain tumors may be performed for removal of the tumor, debulking of the tumor to relieve intracranial pressure or to biopsy of the tumor. The most common type of surgery to remove a brain tumor is a craniotomy.
Radiation for brain cancer patients is typically used after surgery to kill remaining tumor cells, but may also serve as the main treatment if surgery is not an option. The most common type of radiation therapy is external beam radiation. Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at HCA Midwest Health offers advanced radiation treatments including IMRT, SRS.
Chemotherapy uses drugs that target cancer cells and is administered either by mouth or through an IV. Chemotherapy is commonly used for fast-growing tumors and is often used in combination with radiation and/or surgery. For advanced tumors or tumors that have returned or progressed, it may also be used alone.
Targeted Therapy, Immunotherapy and Clinical Trials
Targeted therapy is designed to identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells. Targeted therapies are chosen based on a patient’s genetic profile. Targeted therapies can also be used to activate cells to carry drugs, toxins or radioactive material directly to cancer cells in the brain. Cutting-edge immunotherapy treatments and clinical trials are also available for brain tumor patients. Talk with your neuro-oncologist about your treatment options.