Central Nervous System and Brain Tumors
About Brain Tumors
The brain is the center of thought, memory, emotion, speech, sensation and motor function. The spinal cord and special nerves in the head called cranial nerves carry and receive messages between the brain and the rest of the body.
There are two types of brain tumors:
- Primary — a tumor that starts in the brain. Primary brain tumors can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant.
- Metastatic — a tumor caused by cancer elsewhere in the body that spreads to the brain. Metastatic brain tumors are always cancerous.
Primary tumors in the brain or spinal cord rarely spread to distant organs. Brain tumors cause damage because as they grow they can interfere with surrounding cells that serve vital roles in our everyday life.
General Risk Factors for Brain Tumors
Most brain and spinal cord tumors have no known risk factors and occur for no apparent reason. There are no known proven ways to prevent these tumors.
Facts about Brain Tumors
The Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States estimates that more than 40,000 Americans will be diagnosed with a primary brain tumor this year.
This year, an estimated 170,000 Americans will be diagnosed with a brain or spinal cord tumor that has spread from another part of the body.
Signs of Brain Tumors
No blood test or other screening exam can detect brain tumors, but there are often some outward signs. While tumors in different parts of the central nervous system disrupt different functions, some symptoms include:
- Weakness or numbness on one side of the body
- Changes in vision, hearing or sensation
- Difficulty with speech
- Lack of coordination
- A change in mood or personality
- Memory loss
Diagnosing Brain Tumors
If you suffer from any of the initial signs of a brain tumor, your doctor will likely conduct some or all of the following tests:
- A physical exam to determine your overall health.
- A neurologic exam to evaluate brain and spinal cord function.
- Imaging studies, such as CT or MRI to look for signs of a brain tumor.
- If studies or scans indicate you might have a brain tumor, some tissue may be taken from the tumor to make an exact diagnosis. This test is called a biopsy.
- A spinal tap may also be performed to look for tumor cells. During this test, a needle is placed in the lower back to obtain a sample of cerebrospinal fluid. This fluid is then examined to see if tumor cells are present.
Treating Brain Tumors
If doctors determine that you have a tumor, the treatment options and prognosis are based on the following factors:
- Tumor type
- Location and size of tumor
- Tumor grade (how abnormal the cells are)
- Your age, medical history and general health
People with brain tumors should discuss treatment options with several cancer specialists, including a radiation oncologist. A radiation oncologist is a doctor who will help you understand the types of radiation therapy available to treat your tumor. Conventional radiation therapy treatment options for brain tumors include:
- External beam radiation therapy.
- Proton beam radiation therapy
- Stereotactic radiotherapy.
- Brachytherapy or internal radiation therapy.
External beam radiation therapy involves a series of daily outpatient treatments over several weeks to accurately deliver radiation to the brain. Radiation is often given after surgery, and sometimes it is used instead of surgery.
Proton beam radiation therapy is a highly advanced form of external beam radiation treatment that precisely targets a tumor, while sparing healthy tissues and organs from the damaging side-effects of radiation.
Stereotactic radiotherapy, sometimes called radiosurgery, is a type of external beam radiation therapy that pinpoints very high doses directly on the tumor, in some cases in only one treatment.
Brachytherapy, or Internal radiation therapy, works by placing radioactive sources in or just next to a tumor. During brachytherapy, a tube or balloon called a catheter will be inserted into the brain. The radiation will then be carried to the tumor using this catheter. This procedure is called GliaSite. The doctors at ROA are the only physicians in the DC Metropolitan area offering this advance delivery of radiotherapy in select patients.
Effective, safe and compassionate patient care is our top priority
The effects of brain radiation can vary depending on your tumor and the technique used to treat it.
Before treatment, your radiation oncologist will discuss any side effects — however rare — you may experience.
Possible side effects can include fatigue, change in appetite, headaches, visual changes, hair loss, skin irritation, nausea, vomiting and/or unsteadiness.
Some side effects can be treated with steroids or other medications. Talk to your doctor about any problems you experience.
Effective, safe and compassionate patient care is our top priority
Dr. Lonika Majithia publishes on The Clinical Utility of DCISionRT on Radiation Therapy Decision Making in Patients with Ductal Carcinoma In Situ Following Breast-Conserving Surgery in Annals of Surgical Oncology
Abstract Background The role of radiation therapy (RT) following breast-conserving surgery (BCS) in ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) remains controversial. Trials have not identified a low-risk cohort, based on clinicopathologic features, who do not benefit from RT. A biosignature (DCISionRT®) that evaluates recurrence risk has been developed and validated. We evaluated the impact of DCISionRT …
Dr. Lonika Majithia publishes on The Clinical Utility of DCISionRT on Radiation Therapy Decision Making in Patients with Ductal Carcinoma In Situ Following Breast-Conserving Surgery in Annals of Surgical Oncology Read More »
Dr. Avani Rao publishes on plan quality effects of proton therapy for central nervous system and skull base tumors in Radiotherapy and Oncology
Abstract Purpose With reports of CNS toxicity in patients treated with proton therapy at doses lower than would be expected based on photon data, it has been proposed that heavy monitor unit (MU) weighting of pencil beam scanning (PBS) proton therapy spots may potentially increase the risk of toxicity. We evaluated the impact of maximum …
Abstract Purpose Health care practices across the United States have been consolidating in response to various market forces. The degree of practice consolidation varies widely across specialties but has not been well studied within radiation oncology. This study used Medicare data to characterize the extent of practice consolidation among radiation oncologists and to investigate associated …
Radiation Oncology Associates is the leader in comprehensive and cutting-edge radiation oncology therapy services in convenient and accessible locations across Northern Virginia.