Brain Cancer

Physician reviewing brain scans

 

What is brain cancer?

Brain and neurologic cancers are often referred to as brain tumors. Primary tumors form in the brain, while secondary brain tumors form in another part of the body and spread, or metastasize, to the brain. According to the American Cancer Society, the chance that a person will develop a malignant brain or spinal cord tumor is less than one percent.

What are the different types of brain cancers?

Brain tumors are often classified by grade, or the way the cancer cells appear microscopically. Low-grade tumors develop slowly and the cells appear more normally; high-grade tumors grow quicker and appear less normal than low-grade tumors.

Brain tumors are also classified by the type of cells, or the part of the brain, in which they originate. The three most common types of brain tumors in adults are:

  • Astrocytoma
  • Meningioma
  • Oligodendroglioma

What are the symptoms of brain cancer?

Brain cancer symptoms may vary depending on the type and location of the cancer. In fact, some brain tumors may cause no symptoms at all. The most common symptoms associated with brain tumors include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Changes in vision, hearing or speaking ability
  • Changes in cognitive ability (memory, attentiveness, alertness, etc.)
  • Changes in balance or clumsiness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Muscle spasms
  • Numbness in limbs
  • Lethargy
  • Changes in mood or personality
  • Seizures

If symptoms indicate a brain tumor, diagnostic testing will be recommended. Tests may include a physical exam, MRI, CT scan, spinal tap, and/or biopsy.

What are the causes and risk factors of brain cancer?

The exact cause of brain and neurologic cancer is unknown. Like tumors elsewhere in the body, certain genetic and environmental risk factors may play a role in the development of brain tumors. Risk factors can include:

  • Family history
  • Radiation exposure
  • HIV
  • Smoking

How is brain cancer diagnosed and treated?

If your doctor suspects you may have a brain tumor, he or she will recommend various tests, including:

  • A physical exam
  • A neurological exam
  • Imaging tests (MRI and CT scans)
  • Spinal tap
  • Tests to find where the cancer may have originated or spread to other parts of the body
  • A biopsy via operation or stereotactic needle

Gathering a tissue sample, called a biopsy, and viewing it under a microscope is critical to determining if you have benign or malignant brain tumor.

Brain cancer treatment is individualized, meaning each patient has a very different care plan. Treatment depends on the type and grade of the brain tumor, as well as the patient's medical history and overall health. Common treatment strategies for brain tumors include chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and a non-surgical form of radiation therapy called CyberKnife™ technology.

Brain Cancer Treatment at Baptist Cancer Center

As the region’s leading cancer center, we constantly strive to deliver advanced treatments and therapies. In addition to chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, Baptist Cancer Center employs Optune™, a fourth brain cancer treatment option. Patients treated with Optune receive electrodes which are delivered to the skull through a wearable, portable medical device. By creating low-intensity electric fields called Tumor Treating Fields, this treatment has the potential to slow brain cancer cell division, resulting in cell death.

Baptist Cancer Center doctor Aleksander Jankov, MD, along with Semmes Murphey colleagues, participated in Optune certification training in 2017 and now administers the innovative treatment, providing brain cancer patients with personal, customized care.

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