Brain Tumors


Brain and spinal cord tumors are those that are formed by the abnormal growth of cells and may begin in different areas of the brain or spinal cord. Tumors may be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Together, the brain and spinal cord make up the central nervous system (CNS).

Patients with brain or spinal cord tumors are cared for by our brain and spinal cord team, also called the neuro-oncology team.


Diagnosis

Interdisciplinary Neuro-oncology Tumor Board

Precise diagnosis of the type and progression of the tumor is crucial to the successful treatment of nervous system tumors. The interdisciplinary neuro-oncology tumor board consists of all the doctors and health care professionals needed to accurately diagnose your particular condition and oversee your care.

The entire team meets during a weekly conference. At that time, they review their findings from your clinic visit as well as any medical documents you have provided such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized tomography (CT) scans, pathology slides and medical reports. Your lead doctor will then discuss with you the team's conclusions and recommendations.

Treatment

Different treatments are available for those with brain or spinal cord tumors. Some treatments are called standard. This means they are the currently used treatments. Some treatments are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments.

When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment. You may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment, while others are available during or after treatment.

Treatment options vary depending on your situation.

Talk with your team about the approach that is best for you.

Standard treatments for patients with brain tumors offered at Penn

Surgery

Surgery is used to diagnose and treat adult brain tumors. Even if the doctor removes all the cancer that can be seen at the time of the surgery, some patients may be given chemotherapy or radiation therapy after surgery to kill any cancer cells that are left. Treatment given after the surgery, to lower the risk that the cancer will come back, is called adjuvant therapy.

Radiation therapy

Penn radiation oncologists are recognized for techniques that target radiation precisely to the tumor site while sparing normal tissue. Penn radiation oncologists are using the latest techniques available including image modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and partial breast irradiation (implanted radioactive material).

Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. One type of external radiation therapy is hyperfractionated radiation therapy, in which the total dose of radiation is divided into small doses given more than once a day. Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer. The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type of tumor and where it is in the brain.

Chemotherapy

Penn neuro-oncologists have extensive experience in breast cancer treatment and research; and are leading the way in developing new treatments for brain and spinal cord tumors.

These specialists are actively involved in planning your overall treatment. If you need chemotherapy, they'll oversee this part of your care.

Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing.

New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials at Penn.

Proton Therapy

Proton Therapy is the most precise form of radiation treatment for cancer possible, while minimizing damage to healthy tissue and surrounding organs.


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Clinical Trials

Brain Tumor Trials

Phase III Randomized Trial of the Role of Whole Brain Radiation Therapy in Addition to Radiosurgery... more