There have been over 150 different kinds of brain tumors documented to date
but most fall into two categories: Primary or Metastatic.
At ICI we treat a wide variety of Brain Tumors and Spine Metastases
using the latest Radiation Therapy techniques.
Facts about Brain Cancer
Primary Brain Tumors come from the brain and surround areas. Metastatic Brain Tumors start in other areas (such as breast or lungs) and then spread to the brain. Primary Brain Tumors can be malignant or benign. Metastatic Tumors are Malignant.
Types of Brain Cancer
Primary Brain Tumors
Brain tumors may originate from any cell type in the brain including its coverings and supporting tissues such as blood vessels (Hemangiomas), lymph vessels (Lymphomas), meninges (Meningiomas), cranial nerves (Neurinomas), pituitary gland (Pituitary Adenomas) and pineal gland (Pinealomas). Brain tumors from glial cells (Gliomas) are the most common primary brain tumors affecting approximately 6 per 100,000 person years in the United States.
Brain tumors are invasive and grow in a limited space within the intracranial cavity. Because of their location, treatment should often not be delayed. Rarely, brain tumors in non-critical areas which grow very slowly may simply be observed and followed with imaging such as CT or MRI.
Brain metastases are neoplasms that originate in tissues outside the brain and spread secondarily to involve the brain. Metastases to the brain may be single or multiple. It is estimated that more than 100,000 new cases of brain metastases occur in the United States each year. Lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, and breast cancer, the most common cancer in women, are responsible for more than half of the cases of brain metastases in the United States.
Spinal metastases represent a common problem affecting more than 200,000 patients a year in the United States. For many years, conventional radiation therapy has been the most common treatment for patients with metastatic spinal tumors.
Brain tumors are typically treated with surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy and can be done alone or in various combinations. Radiation and chemotherapy are used more often for malignant or recurring tumors, but our recommendation is to make treatment decisions on a case-by-case basis in order to customize the best treatment.
Conventional MRI is the most effective imaging modality in the work-up of CNS tumors. Radiation therapy may be recommended in three circumstances:
- Radiation can be given after surgery for residual disease.
- Radiation may be the preferred treatment when a low-grade glioma has been diagnosed in a critical area of the brain that cannot be surgically removed, and therapy is felt to be necessary.
- Radiosurgery is an emerging modality of treatment that can be used either for cure, pretreatment or salvage after conventional radiation.
Low grade astrocytomas (LGA) are slow-growing primary brain tumors with a heterogeneous clinical behavior, for which the management remains controversial. Treatment approaches range from early and extensive surgery versus ‘Wait-and-see, and radiation immediately after surgery versus at the time of progression
Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) is a technique that allows destruction of an intracranial tumor using focal radiation with stereotactic guidance while protecting normal brain from unwanted radiation.
Many benign brain tumors can be treated with radiosurgery without the need for open surgery, craniotomy or other invasive procedures. Malignant tumors usually require surgical excision or biopsy. Nowadays many surgical treatments tend to be minimally invasive such as stereotactic guided biopsies.
At ICI we treat spine tumors with an advanced technique called Spinal Radiosurgery or Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS).
This has revolutionized the treatment because it is more accurate and results in minimal side effects compared to older, more conventional radiation therapy.
Instead of open surgery, SRS offers a noninvasive option to deliver a large dose of radiation to the tumor with millimeter accuracy.
The treatment may be delivered in a single treatment or may be given over 3 to 5 treatment sessions may be used for tumors of specific size and location.
Our approach, performed at the Innovative Cancer Institute on an outpatient basis, is becoming the preferred approach in the management of spinal and paraspinal primary and metastatic tumors.
Spinal radiosurgery can also be used in patients previously treated with conventional radiation when other treatments have failed (reirradiation).
In these patients the decision of how to proceed will depend on several factors including: Previous treatment, Disease response to previous therapy, Clinical situation, Patient/caregiver desires, Resource availability
Are there any radiation side effects?
While Radiation is the least invasive of treatments there is a small chance of some minor side effects. Those effects depend on where the radiation is used, so each case is different.
Some of the potential short-term side effects of Radiation Treatment are: Headaches, hair loss, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, hearing loss, skin and scalp changes, trouble with memory and speech, seizures.
Some of these side effects happen because radiation can cause the brain to swell, and medicine can be provided to prevent that. Also keep in mind that treatment affects each patient differently, and you may not have these or any side effects.
Sometimes there can be side effects that show up later – usually from 6 months to many years after treatment ends. Delayed effects can include memory loss, stroke-like symptoms, and poor brain function. You may also be at increased risk of having another tumor in the area, although this is not common.
Brain Cancer Radiation Treatment FAQs
What is difference between benign brain tumors and malignant brain tumors:
Benign brain tumors are non-cancerous, but that doesn’t mean they should not be considered for treatment. Malignant tumors are cancerous and typically are more aggressive and spread faster than others and definitely require treatment.
How can I know if I am more likely to get Brain Cancer?
In most cases of brain tumors, the cause is not clear. However there are two factors that can increase the risk of cancer, prior exposure to radiation is one, and the other is family history of Brain Tumors.
What are the Symptoms of Brain Cancer?
Signs and symptoms of a brain tumor vary widely and can depend on the tumor’s size, locale, and how fast it grows.
- Some signs or symptoms might include:
- Onset or new pattern of headaches
- Headaches that become more frequent and more severe over time
- Unexplained vomiting or nausea
- Vision problems
- Gradual loss of sensation in limbs
- Difficulty with balance and speech
- Confusion in everyday matters
- Personality/behavior changes
- Seizures, especially in you don’t have a prior history of seizures
- Problems hearing
How is it Diagnosed?
Diagnosis starts by taking family history and reviewing symptoms, followed by a physical and neurological exam. The doctor may then recommend a CT scan or MRI, and or an MRA or Angiogram. The doctor may also recommend a biopsy in some cases.