Primary Brain Tumors
Primary brain tumors are categorized as either high-grade (rapidly growing) or low-grade (slow growing). However, even low-grade tumors can be dangerous because the skull encases the brain, a finite space that cannot accommodate tumor growth. Expanding cancer creates pressure in the skull and can damage the brain. A low-grade brain tumor can become high-grade, growing faster and endangering life. Every year, about 22,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Metastatic Brain Tumors
Also called secondary brain cancer, this disease begins elsewhere in the body (the primary cancer), then spreads to the brain. Metastatic brain cancer is far more common that the primary form — about 100,000 people in this country are diagnosed with secondary brain cancer every year. The prognosis for these patients depends on the size, location and origin of the primary disease.
- Headaches, often severe
- Seizures, ranging from simple muscle twitches to Grand Mal and loss of consciousness
- Personality, memory or judgment changes
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fatigue, weakness
- Poor balance
- Partial or complete loss of vision, double vision
- Altered perception of touch or pressure
- Difficulty swallowing, facial weakness or numbness
Your treatment at Oncology San Antonio will be planned and carried out by a multidisciplinary team, with each team member bringing their particular area of expertise to your case.
If the brain tumor is in an area that is operable, a neurosurgeon will remove the tumor and adjacent tissue. As with other cancers, surgery is often the first step in treatment and can improve symptoms, as well as providing tissue for analysis to determine if chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy would also be useful. Advances in cortical mapping (identification of specific areas of the brain), enhanced imaging and computer-based techniques, such as Image Guided Surgery (IGS), have made brain surgery even more precise and effective.
- Conventional radiation therapy
This technique is appropriate for whole brain radiation therapy for brain metastases. The tumor’s grade determines the amount of radiation used.
- Three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT)
A three-dimensional computer image of the tumor and surrounding healthy tissue is created from CT and MRI scans. This model allows radiation to be focused tightly on the tumor, so the surrounding normal tissue is not exposed to high doses of radiation.
- Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
Multiple high-energy x-ray beams precisely target the tumor. The strength of the beams can be adjusted as necessary depending on the size, location and stage of the cancer.
This robotic technology continuously tracks, detects, and corrects for tumor and patient movement, delivering focused beams from up to 200 different angles with sub-millimeter accuracy. The CyberKnife system offers options to treat complex and surgically-inoperable tumors.
GammaKnife radiosurgery uses gamma rays focused through a target point in the patient’s brain. The dose of radiation is delivered to the tumor in one treatment session and has proven effective for benign or malignant brain tumors.
Proton radiation therapy
Proton therapy is an external-beam radiation therapy that uses protons rather than x-rays to destroy cancer cells.
Chemotherapy (cancer drugs) is used to kill cancer cells. Oncologists treating brain cancer choose the drug or drugs that most effectively cross the blood-brain barrier. Depending on the type, size and location of the tumor(s), your treatment team may opt for a combination of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.
Some brain tumors can be treated with a type of targeted therapy called anti-angiogenesis therapy, which helps stop the growth of new blood vessels that feed the tumor.
Knowledge about brain cancers and their treatment increases every year through the efforts of researchers around the world.
Blood-brain barrier disruption
A technique that interferes with the brain’s natural protective barrier to allow cancer drugs to more effectively reach the brain via the bloodstream.
Studies of biomarkers may lead to new tests that detect brain cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages.
Also called biologic therapy or biological response modifier (BRM) therapy, immunotherapy can help the body’s natural defenses fight brain cancer. Researchers are developing new techniques using dendritic cells (“messengers” in the immune system) and vaccines that target a specific molecule on tumor cells.
Researchers are working on therapies for brain tumors that target the ways brain tumors grow, how they spread, and how to destroy them.
Convection enhanced delivery (CED)
This new technique infuses drugs directly into tumor cells, pumping the chemotherapy under pressure. This precise targeting helps reduce damage to healthy cells.
Scientists are looking for ways to replace or repair abnormal genes that cause or accelerate tumor growth.
Researchers are learning more about specific gene mutations and how they relate to brain tumors, which may lead to advances in diagnosis and treatment.