Brain & Spine Tumor Care
Our experienced neurological cancer specialists have in-depth expertise and offer advanced brain and spine tumor treatments.
Personalized Brain & Spine Tumor Care
- Utilize the most advanced surgical techniques, CyberKnife technology and systemic therapy.
- Work closely with select local and national partners to give our patients access to the latest clinical trials for brain cancer.
- Diagnose, stage and make the best treatment recommendation for each person as a multidisciplinary team. Our spine and brain tumor experts include neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, neuroradiologists and neuropathologists.
- For people with tumors located in the lateral skull base, a neurotologist may be an important specialist on your team.
Get answers & treatment, fastTo give patients confidence and get treatment started fast, our compassionate neurological cancer specialists collaborate so you have the most urgent, patient-centric experience in our Brain & Spine Tumor STAT Clinic at select locations. This clinic offers the highest level of multidisciplinary care, where a neurosurgeon, radiation oncologist and medical oncologist meet to review a patient’s case together. Then, the patient meets with their personalized team of physicians and their nurse navigator to discuss their diagnosis and recommended treatment plan. We do this quickly because beginning treatment faster can lead to better outcomes.
Our experts have expertsBecause Wellstar is a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, Wellstar patients with neurological tumors can work with our spine and brain tumor experts to request eConsults — virtual second opinions — from Mayo Clinic specialists at no additional cost to patients.
Patient satisfactionOur patients give Wellstar physicians high satisfaction scores thanks to our team’s compassion and expertise, commitment to getting your treatment started quickly and a robust network of patient support.
Accredited careBecause of the advanced level of care and technology offered here, Wellstar's cancer program is accredited by the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Commission on Cancer (CoC) and received the Outstanding Achievement Award, the highest honor awarded to a cancer program in the United States.
Diagnosis for Brain & Spine TumorsPeople are typically diagnosed with neurological tumors after experiencing a wide range of symptoms. For some people, tumors located in the brain cause severe headaches. Other people may have weakness in the body or the face, seizures, hearing loss or an altered mental state. Someone with a spinal tumor may have back pain or weakness in the arms and legs.
EvaluationMost often, a person who is experiencing neurological symptoms is evaluated by an emergency department physician or primary care provider. The first step is a neurological exam. Next, a patient will typically have an imaging CT or MRI. If it reveals a brain or spine lesion, the patient will have further evaluation by an experienced neurosurgeon. The goal is to give each person a fast diagnosis and the option to start treatment as quickly as possible.
Neuroradiology and advanced imagingWellstar is one of the few programs in the nation with a dedicated neuroradiology program. Our experts have additional training specific to the nervous system. Neuroradiologists read imaging studies to help diagnose nervous system tumors more accurately. Someone with a brain tumor may have navigation-guided MRI scans, myelograms and/or angiograms to assess tumors and their relation to related blood vessels.
PathologyMost treatment paths for neurological tumors start with surgery to biopsy or remove the brain or spine lesion. Our neurosurgeons use the most advanced technological systems — image-based medical navigation allows for precise instrument guidance and makes brain and spine tumor surgery safer.
The tissue samples from the biopsy or resection are reviewed by multiple pathologists and neuropathologists to provide the most accurate diagnosis. Our membership in the Mayo Clinic Care Network allows our neurosurgeons to have a close partnership with Mayo Clinic pathologists, who often review each patient’s individual pathology.
Brain & Spine Tumor TreatmentEach person we care for works with a team of nervous system tumor experts, who tailor treatment plans to a patient’s unique diagnosis. We take many factors into account, like the tumor size, location, type and what will be safest for each patient.
Our brain and spine tumor specialists treat many types of cancerous and benign tumors that start in the brain or spread to the brain and spine, including:
- Gliomas (glioblastoma, astrocytoma)
- Metastatic lesions
- Vestibular schwannoma (acoustic neuroma)
- Skull base lesions
- Many others
Surgery for brain & spine tumorsMost treatment paths for tumors in the brain and spine start with surgery to biopsy or remove the lesion. Our board-certified, fellowship-trained neurosurgeons have extensive specialized neurological training involving the brain, nerves and spinal cord.
For people with meningiomas, surgery alone can be curative. In other cases, treatment can be more effective when surgery is combined with chemotherapy and radiation.
For people with tumors in the lateral skull base — an area near the ears — a patient’s neurosurgeon typically collaborates with a board-certified and fellowship-trained neurotologist. This surgeon has highly specialized experience in accessing skull base tumors while conserving nearby important structures.
Radiation therapy for brain tumorsSurgery is typically the first line treatment for neurological tumors but it can be paired with radiation therapy to prevent cancer from coming back. It can also be beneficial for someone who is not a candidate for surgery because of the location of their tumor. Stereotactic radiosurgery – a special type of radiation – may also be effective for an individual with recurrent brain or spine cancer who typically would not be a candidate to have radiation a second time.
People with benign brain tumors or spine tumors that cause pain such as trigeminal neuralgia, pituitary conditions, meningiomas and skull base lesions can also benefit from radiation therapy.
In our world-class radiation suites, experienced radiation oncologists offer a variety of techniques and leading-edge technologies, including:
- Stereotactic radiosurgery: With CyberKnife and TrueBeam systems, physicians target precise beams of high-dose radiation at brain and spine tumors. Wellstar Kennestone Hospital is the only program in Atlanta with CyberKnife radiation therapy. Wellstar locations with TrueBeam stereotactic technology include Wellstar West Georgia Medical Center, Wellstar Cobb Hospital and Wellstar Kennestone Hospital.
- External beam radiation therapy (EBRT): External beam radiation therapy aims high-energy X-ray beams at a specific part of the body to destroy cancerous or benign brain tumors.
- Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT): This enhanced radiation therapy treatment uses computers and a linear accelerator to pinpoint the exact location of a brain tumor.
- Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT): With this technology, radiation oncologists precisely control the intensity of the radiation that different parts of a spine or brain tumor receive assisted by computer-controlled, movable “leaves” that mimic the shape of the tumor.
- Volumetric Modulated Arc Therapy (VMAT): With this tailored radiation treatment for brain and spine tumors, a volumetric modulated arc therapy beam is continuously aimed at the tumor as the machine rotates around the patient, which increases patient comfort, shortens treatment time and allows for sophisticated tumor targeting.
- Glioblastoma treatment: People with glioblastoma who have undergone surgery to remove their tumor followed by radiation and chemotherapy have access to Optune. It is a wearable, portable device that delivers electromagnetic treatment to break down brain tumor DNA. It has been shown to extend survival in patients with glioblastoma.
Medical oncology for brain cancerOur medical oncologists stay on the forefront of the latest treatments for brain cancer and can give our patients access to the latest clinical trials.
Depending on the type of brain tumor a patient has, medical oncologists create a tailored treatment plan, which may include chemotherapy – a medicine taken orally as a pill or in one of our infusion centers.
Genetic risk assessmentA small number of neurological system tumors are linked to hereditary genetic factors. When a patient has a concerning personal or family history of cancer, they may be assessed for rare syndromes known to have a link to nervous system tumors. Learn more about Wellstar’s robust Genetic Risk Assessment Program for cancer.
Support Services & Nurse NavigationWhile people treated at Wellstar for spine and brain tumors benefit from the high level of medical expertise, they are just as vocal about the care provided by nurse navigators. These nurses foster communication between people and their network of specialists to get the care they need and the right level of support.
Neurological rehabilitation & physical therapyWhile treatment for people with nervous system tumors can be highly successful and help people have a better quality of life, the time following surgery can be difficult.
After brain tumor surgery, it’s normal to experience swelling in the brain, which can cause confusion or difficulties with speech and swallowing. Our speech therapists are trained to evaluate and help people with brain tumors function better so they have an improved quality of life.
After spine tumor surgery, swelling in the spinal cord tumor can cause weakness or sensory changes in the arms and legs. Physical therapists help address these symptoms, as well as other side effects caused by neurological tumors, such as pain, fatigue, soft tissue restrictions, strength and muscle loss, balance impairments and abnormal gait.
Learn more about cancer rehabilitation at Wellstar.
A network of supportNurse navigators also work with our patients to connect them to other services they may need, including:
- Registered oncology dietitians, who help people with neurological system cancer maximize their nutrition and well-being
- Oncology social workers, who help people undergoing treatment improve their quality of life with counseling and other ways
- Oncology psychologists and psychiatrists, who work with people with brain and spine cancer and their partners to manage the emotional side of cancer
- Palliative care specialists, who offer complex symptom management
- Genetic counselors, who help patients with rare syndromes linked to cancer understand their disease; make informed decisions about treatment and lifestyle choices; and discuss how results may affect their family members
Learn more about our support services for people with cancer.