Learning you have a brain tumor is life changing. Effective treatment depends on an accurate diagnosis and a team of specially trained experts. Our compassionate care team provides in-depth expertise, and your nurse navigator will be with you every step of the way so you can begin treatment within days.
When you’re diagnosed with a brain tumor, every day counts. We help you review and understand your options quickly. You can trust us with education, what to expect and next steps after you’re diagnosed.
Brain cancer detection and diagnosis
Most brain tumors are found when you report unusual symptoms to your doctor. Some of the more noticeable symptoms are headaches that get worse over time, balance problems, personality and behavioral changes and even seizures. During your visit, your doctor will test physical skills like your reflexes, muscle strength, sensation, eye and mouth movement, vision, coordination and alertness.
If a tumor is suspected, your doctor will send you for additional exams or tests to confirm the diagnosis. You’ll usually be referred to our advanced imaging services and may need a biopsy to identify the type of tumor and whether it is benign or malignant (cancerous). You may have a lumbar puncture to determine if, and how far, the cancer has spread. A pathologist, a doctor who specializes in diagnosing disease, will look at your cell samples to identify the presence of cancer cells and determine its type and whether it’s noninvasive or invasive.
Innovative technologies offered at SCL Health
We target brain tumors with some of the most advanced treatments and technology available. Throughout our system, our accredited cancer programs may offer:
- 3-D navigation - An innovative technology that allows brain surgeons to pinpoint a tumor’s location within the brain on all three planes. Throughout surgery, a surgeon can detect and precisely determine where the tumor ends and normal brain tissue begins.
- Functional MRI brain mapping - This technique allows surgeons to locate specific areas of the brain before surgery so they can determine the best approach to avoid critical areas of the brain that control movement, speech and other functions.
- Minimally invasive neurosurgery – A surgical technique available for some patients, where a neurosurgeon uses a thin tube with a light and camera at the end to access difficult-to-reach areas of the brain.
- Non-invasive brain surgery – A radiation therapy technique where no surgical incision is made to expose the inside of the brain, eliminating complications that occur with open brain surgery.
- Radiation oncology targeting – A medical device that allows radiation oncologists to precisely target areas of the brain where a cancerous tumor was removed.
You will need to call your local hospital to learn which of these options are available in your area.
Coping with thinking and memory problems
Your brain is a finely tuned machine built to help you with cognitive skills, such as thinking, reasoning and processing information. When you have a tumor and when you have treatment, your cognitive skills can be affected.
How We Treat Brain Cancer
Your case is unique, which means your treatment plan will be designed around your needs. Every week, a team of specialists meets to discuss cancer cases and collaborate on the best treatment for each patient. This group includes neurosurgery, neuroradiology, neuropathology, radiation oncology and neuro-oncology. You also benefit from the combined expertise of specialists in radiology, surgery, pathology, pharmacology, oncology and therapists in fields like physical therapy and psychology.
We believe in providing our patients the best and broadest range of treatments available. Your recommended treatment will be based on best practices that have worked for other patients, specific aspects of your cancer/tumor, the results of all your tests, the stage of your cancer and your personal preferences.
Brain cancer is typically treated through a combination of treatments, such as surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and other specialized therapies. Many new treatments are leading to longer survival and a better quality of life.
Surgery is the most common way to treat brain cancer. Both traditional open surgery and minimally invasive surgery are used. Surgery is done in combination with other treatments, like radiation therapy or chemotherapy. The goal of brain surgery is to remove as much of the tumor or tumors as possible.
This type of therapy uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells and is often the primary treatment for many types of brain cancer. Radiation therapy can be used to shrink a tumor before surgery or may be used after surgery to kill cancer cells that remain in the brain cavity. It may also be used to treat tumors in other areas of the body.
Chemotherapy and infusion
Chemotherapy uses powerful medicines to kill cancer cells all through the body. It may be used to shrink a tumor before surgery or to kill any cancer cells that remain after local treatments such as surgery. Chemotherapy may also treat tumors that have grown in other places in the body. Brain cancer is usually treated with chemotherapy in combination with surgery and radiation therapy.
Targeted therapy is the use of medicines that target parts of cancer cells that make them unlike normal cells. They do this without affecting most normal, healthy cells. The drugs are different from standard chemotherapy medicines and may work when chemotherapy medicines don’t, often with less severe side effects.
Care and Support
Your care team
Our cancer care teams know that great care is the result of seamless communication between you, your family and your existing healthcare providers. When you have this kind of collaboration, you can expect a more efficient, effective and tailored approach to meeting your individual needs.
Brain cancer nurse navigators
One of your key team members is your nurse navigator, who serves as a patient educator and care guide focused on improving your cancer treatment experience. Your nurse navigator will assist you at every stage, help you understand your diagnosis and treatment options and coordinate care between your physician, surgeon and other support teams.
Life beyond brain cancer
With improvements in technology and the coordination of care, more patients are surviving brain cancer than ever before. Our survivorship program gives you access to specialists who partner with you for your post-treatment. This program focuses on nutritional goals, healthy living, emotional well-being and physical, speech and occupational therapy rehabilitation when you need it.
We’ll also help you set up regular medical checkups with your primary doctor to prevent, detect and manage any complications related to your cancer or cancer treatment. Because you may be at higher risk for second cancers, screening and surveillance are essential to your long-term health.
Talk with your doctor about developing a survivorship care plan. This document will summarize the cancer treatment you received and outline the medical guidance you’ll need as you transition to living beyond cancer.