Physicians at Valley Medical Center's Neuroscience Institute treat patients with benign or cancerous tumors of the brain, spinal cord and nerves. Benign nervous system tumors, while not cancerous, may require ongoing treatment. Our neurosurgeons and radiation oncologists work hand-in-hand to give patients the best possible care.
Neuro Oncology treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The nervous system cannot be radiated diffusely; therefore, radiation treatments to the brain and spinal cord must be carefully focused. This focusing is referred to as stereotactic radiosurgery.
Neurosurgeons at The Neuroscience Institute are all trained in the surgical removal of tumors, have extensive experience in brain tumor resection, and administer direct chemotherapy treatment to the surgical area. When radiation is warranted in treatment, The Institute's neurosurgeons work hand-in-hand with radiation oncologists to manage focused radiosurgery and assure the best possible treatment.
Because Valley Medical Center was part of the FDA trial of implanted chemotherapy, the Intensive Care and Neuroscience Unit nursing personnel have extensive experience with the pre- and post-operative treatment of patients with brain tumors. Sophisitcated, on-site neuroimaging devices, including MRI and CT scanning, enable instant reevaluation at any time that reevaluation is required. The Epilepsy Clinic at Valley Medical Center also allows state-of-the-art diagnosis and treatment of tumor-related seizure and epilepsy conditions.
Chemotherapy is performed in the Infusion and Immunotherapy Center located on the main floor (3rd floor) of Valley Medical Center. Valley Medical Center's dedicated Radiation Oncology Unit, with facilities for stereotactic radiosurgery, is situated across from VMC's main entrance. The Radiation Oncology building connects to the hospital underground to provide confidential access to imaging services, if required to guide radiation therapy treatment.
A brain tumor is an abnormal growth of tissue in the brain. They can be either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Tumors can originate in the brain itself, or come from another part of the body and travel to the brain (metastasize). Benign tumors do not contain cancer cells and when removed do not recur. Malignant tumors contain cancer cells and usually are fast growing and invade surrounding tissue. However, sometimes tumors that are not cancer are called malignant because of their size and location in the brain.
What causes brain tumors?
Most brain tumors have abnormalities of genes involved in cell cycle control, causing uncontrolled cell growth. These abnormalities are caused by alterations directly in genes, or chromosome rearrangements which change the function of a gene. Patients with neurofibromatosis, Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, and retinoblastoma have an increased risk of developing tumors of the central nervous system. Also, there have been some cases of people in the same family developing brain tumors that do not have any of these genetic syndromes.
Patients who have received radiation therapy to the head as part of prior treatment for other malignancies are also at an increased risk for new brain tumors.
Symptoms of Brain Tumor
There are common symptoms for brain tumors, however each persons experience may be different and the symptoms vary depending on the size and location of the tumor. Tumors are extra tissue in the brain and can cause pressure on the brain and result in increased intracranial pressure (ICP). This may cause one or more of the ventricles that drain cerebral spinal fluid (the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord) to become blocked and cause the fluid to be trapped in the brain. The increased ICP may cause the following:
Symptoms of brain tumors in the front of the brain include:
Symptoms of brain tumors in the brainstem or base of the brain may include:
Symptoms of brain tumors in the cerebellum or back of the brain may include:
Treatment of Brain Tumor
Treatment for brain tumors will be decided by your doctor based on the following characteristics:
Treatment for a brain tumor may rely on one or a combination of the following:
There are also newer therapies that may be involved in your brain tumor treatment:
Rehabilitation for Brain Tumors
Valley specialists will see to it that you get the continuous follow-up care that is essential for a person diagnoses with a brain tumor. One has to be on guard against the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy, as well as second malignancies which can occur in brain tumor survivors. Lost motor skills and muscle strength will be regained through rehabilitation for an extended amount of time. Valley speech therapists and physical and occupational therapist may be involved in your treatment plan.
Tumors that start in spinal tissue are called primary spinal tumors. Tumors that spread to the spine from some other place (metatastasis) are called secondary spinal tumors.
The cause of primary spinal tumors is unknown. Some primary spinal tumors occur with genetic defects. A spinal tumor is much less common than a primary brain tumor.
Spinal tumors can occur:
Or, tumors may extend from other locations. Most spinal tumors are extradural.
As it grows, the tumor can affect the:
It may press on (compress) the spinal cord or nerve roots (similar to spinal cord trauma), invade normal cells, or block blood vessels and lead to a lack of oxygen (ischemia).
Symptoms of Spinal Tumors
The symptoms depend on the location, type of tumor, and your general health. Tumors that have spread to the spine from another site (metastatic tumors) often progress quickly. Primary tumors often progress slowly over weeks to years.
Tumors in the spinal cord (intramedullary) usually cause symptoms, sometimes over large portions of the body. Tumors outside the spinal cord (extramedullary) may grow for a long time before causing nerve damage.
Symptoms may include:
Treatment of Spinal Tumors
The goal of treatment is to reduce or prevent nerve damage from pressure on (compression of) the spinal cord.
Treatment should be given quickly. The faster symptoms develop, the sooner treatment is needed to prevent permanent injury. Any new or unexplained back pain in a patient with cancer should be taken seriously.