Primary care for you and your family, close to home.
Wellstar provides superior care for brain tumors, offering a comprehensive spectrum of top-notch physicians, treatment options and diagnostic tools.
Wellstar offers innovative advances in the fight against brain tumors, including:
A tumor is an abnormal growth of cells. Tumors may be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant cancerous).
Benign brain tumors:
Malignant brain tumors (brain cancer):
Primary brain tumors begin in the brain; secondary, or metastatic brain tumors begin elsewhere and spread to the brain. According to estimates by the American Basin Tumor Association, in 2010 about 63,000 new cases of primary brain tumors were diagnosed, of which about 39,000 were benign and 24,000 malignant. Although statistics on secondary brain tumors are not available, it is estimated that 150,000 people per year develop symptoms of secondary brain tumors.
Brain tumors are grouped by grade, depending how their cells look under a microscope.
Primary brain tumors are classified the type of cells or the part of the brain where they began.
Among adults, the most common types of primary brain tumors are:
The most common primary brain tumors in children are:
Secondary brain tumors most often originate as lung cancer, breast cancer, melanoma, kidney cancer, or colon cancer.
Researchers are unable to explain the causes of the genetic mutations that lead to most primary brain tumors, there are a few risk factors, including:
Ongoing research has failed to link non-ionizing radiation, such as that from power lines, radio transmitters (like cellphones), and microwave ovens, to brain tumors.
In general, risk factors for primary brain tumors are unavoidable. However, since most brain tumors are secondary, having originated elsewhere, anything that reduces the incidence of cancer will reduce the incidence of brain tumors.
The single most important behavior to avoid is smoking, which is implicated in up to 30 different kinds of cancer. Wellstar supports smoking cessation programs and will endeavor to help patients who want to stop smoking through a variety of cessation efforts. Different approaches work for different people, and Wellstar experts can help tailor a cessation program that will enhance your likelihood successfully quitting.
Screening tests, like mammograms for breast cancer, are used to detect illness in a general population, including people who have no symptoms.
There are no screening tests for brain tumors.
If you have symptoms of a brain tumor, your Wellstar physician will take a complete medical history to discern your risk factors and symptoms, and give you a physical examination. You may also undergo a neurological exam, which includes checking vision, hearing, balance, coordination, and reflexes.
Magnetic resonance imagery (MRI) is often used to help diagnose brain tumors. Wellstar has a 3 Tesla magnet which is twice the strength of the most common 1.5 Tesla scanner which is most prevalent throughout the country and in the majority of academic brain tumor centers.
A spinal tap is the sampling of cerebrospinal fluid, which surrounds the brain and spinal cord. With local anesthesia, a long, thin needed is inserted into the lower spinal column, withdrawing some fluid for a pathologist to examine. The procedure takes about 30 minutes, but you must lie flat for several hours to avoid a headache. This procedure is useful in staging lymphomas and medulloblastomas.
Biopsy is the removal of a sample of tissue to look for tumor cells; it is the certain way to diagnose a brain tumor, learn what grade it is, and plan treatment. Your Wellstar neurosurgeon may take a sample when the tumor is removed. If the tumor is in a part of the brain that cannot be operated on, you may have a stereotactic biopsy, in which your head is secured, a small hole is drilled in the skull, and CT or MRI is used to guide a needle to the tumor to secure a sample.
If the tumor is in the brain stem or a few other areas, it may be impossible to gain access to the tumor without harming healthy brain tissue. In this case, extensive imaging tests are used to learn as much as possible about the tumor.
Brain cancers are not staged like many other cancers. Besides grading the tumor, your Wellstar neuro-oncologists will assess tumor location, neurological function, and genetic markers to help plan treatment and indicate prognosis.
Once a brain tumor has been detected and graded, your team of specialists in neuro-oncology, radiation oncology, surgery and pathology will work together to assess your best course of treatment for your specific type of brain cancer. This will include formulating a coordinated plan of personalized treatment consistent with the highest standards of care. Your treatment will be tailored to the type, grade, location, and size of your brain tumor as well as your age and general health. It may include a combination of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
Surgery is the standard first treatment for most brain tumors; if the tumor is located in an accessible place, your Wellstar neurosurgeon will remove as much of it as possible. You may be awake during the surgery, and be asked to move a leg, count, say the alphabet, or tell a story; this helps the surgeon protect important parts of the brain.
Some tumors are small and easy to separate from surrounding brain tissue, allowing complete removal. Others can't be separated or are near sensitive parts of the brain, so only as much as is safe is removed; even removing a portion of the tumor may alleviate symptoms.
Wellstar neurosurgeons are trained in advanced neuro-oncological techniques for removing brain tumors safely, sometimes without making a large incision. They use high definition scopes and video to remove some tumors through small “keyhole” openings in the skull or sinuses.
Possible side effects of brain surgery include swelling and fluid buildup, which can be treated with steroids or placement of a drain (shunt), and infection. Brain surgery may also harm normal brain tissue, causing cognitive, perceptive or personality problems, as well as seizures. Most of these problems improve or disappear with time, as the brain heals, but some may be permanent; you may need physical, occupational, or speech therapy.
Radiation therapy for brain tumors uses high-energy electromagnetic beams, like x-rays, to kill tumor cells. Radiation can come from a machine outside your body (external radiation therapy).
In external radiation therapy, a large machine aims beams or radiation at your head. Since cancer cells may invade normal brain tissue, the radiation may be targeted at the tumor any nearby brain tissue, or the whole brain. Treatment depends on your age and health, and the type and size of the tumor. The most common method of delivering radiation to brain tumors is fractionated external beam therapy, in which the radiation dose is divided over several weeks, usually five days a week, to help protect healthy brain tissue. Each treatment lasts only a few minutes.
Variations of external radiation therapy include use of computers to closely target the tumor to lessen collateral damage; use of proton beams instead of x-rays; and stereotactic radiation therapy, in which narrow beams of x-rays or gamma rays are aimed at the tumor from different angles while the head is fixed in a rigid frame. At Wellstar, our CyberKnife program delivers state-of-the-art brain radiation with pinpoint accuracy.
Internal radiation therapy isn't commonly used for treating brain tumors, but is under study. A small implant called a seed is placed inside the brain near the tumor, and give off radiation for months. They do not need to be removed.
Some people have few or no side effects from radiation therapy; a few have nausea for several hours after treatment, and many feel very tired with each treatment. External radiation therapy often causes hair loss from the part(s) of the scalp through which radiation passed; hair usually grows back in a few months. It may also make the skin on the scalp and ears red, dry, and tender.
Occasionally, radiation causes the brain to swell, causing headaches or a feeling of pressure; you will be monitored for signs of this problem. Radiation rarely kills healthy brain tissue, and may harm the pituitary gland.
Chemotherapy the use of drugs to destroy tumor cells, is used to treat brain tumors. Chemotherapy drugs may be given by mouth or injected. Side effects may include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, headache, fever and chills, weakness, and susceptibility to infection; some of these can be mitigated with medication.
Another method of chemotherapy delivery, used in some adults with high-grade glioma, is via wafers that are implanted in the brain during tumor surgery. Over several weeks, the dime-sized wafers dissolve, releasing the drug directly into the brain.
Targeted drug therapy differs from standard chemotherapy in that it focuses on the genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying the cancer. By blocking these mechanisms, they can cause cancer cells to die. These therapies are new and many are still in clinical trials. One such drug is bevacizumab (Avastin®), which inhibits the growth of blood vessels, cutting off the tumor's blood supply, killing it.
You’ll be referred after your treatment of a brain tumor to Wellstar’s medical oncology team for rehabilitation, surveillance and survivorship programs. These comprehensive programs focus on therapy to recover from any brain damage caused by the tumor or its treatment, and diet, exercise and nutrition to help you reduce the risk of recurrence.
Since brain tumors can develop in the parts of the brain that provide motor skills, speech, vision, and thinking, rehabilitation may be a critical part of recovery. Some people never regain all of the abilities they had before the tumor and its treatment, but your Wellstar team will help you return to normal activities as soon as possible.
Several types of therapists can help:
Cancer care at Wellstar is more than advanced technology, clinical research, and highly specialized physicians and nurses. It includes an array of supportive care services to improve the patient experience before, during and after treatment. All of these services are available within the Wellstar system, including:
Wellstar’s certified palliative care physicians and certified registered nurses are dedicated to providing compassionate, quality care in various settings, including home hospice, inpatient hospice nursing homes, assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Wellstar offers caring and compassionate hospice care for patients and their families in one of Georgia’s oldest hospice programs serving Bartow, Cherokee, Cobb, Douglas and Paulding counties.