brain and spinal cord tumors

Neuro-oncology is the study of abnormal tissue growth (such as tumors) in the central nervous system. The central nervous system (or CNS) is the medical name for the brain and spinal cord.

Although central nervous system tumors rarely spread to other parts of the body, most of them can spread through the brain tissue. Even benign tumors can destroy and compress normal brain tissue, causing damage that is disabling and sometimes fatal. For this reason, doctors usually speak of ‘brain tumors’ or ‘central nervous system tumors’ rather than ‘cancers.’ The main concerns with these tumors of the central nervous system tumors are how readily they spread through the rest of the brain or spinal cord and whether they can be removed and not come back.

There are more than 120 types of central nervous system tumors. They are classified by their cell origin and how the cells behave: from the least aggressive (benign) to the most aggressive (malignant). Some tumors range from Grade I (least malignant) to Grade IV (most malignant). The classification and grade of an individual tumor help predict its likely behavior and treatments. Your OHC doctor will help you determine the best care plan for you.

Several conditions may increase the risk of developing certain types of brain tumors: exposure to radiation, exposure to vinyl chloride and having certain genetic syndromes. There are no screening tests for brain and central nervous system cancers.

Signs & Symptoms

Possible symptoms of a central nervous system (brain or spinal cord) tumor include:

  • A new seizure in an adult
  • Gradual loss of movement or sensation in an arm or leg
  • Unsteadiness or imbalance, especially if it is associated with headache
  • Loss of vision in one or both eyes, especially if the vision loss is more peripheral
  • Double vision, especially if it is associated with headache
  • Hearing loss with or without dizziness
  • Speech difficulty of gradual onset
  • Headaches (though most do not indicate a tumor)
  • A change in behavior
  • Infertility or abnormal stopping of menstruation

Other symptoms may also include nausea or vomiting that is most severe in the morning, confusion and disorientation, and memory loss. Of course, with any such symptoms, you should contact your doctor immediately.


Standard treatments include surgery, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy. Your OHC doctor will help you determine the best care plan for you.

Gamma Knife
In the Tri-State, only OHC is curing brain cancer using Gamma Knife technology. Gamma Knife allows our doctors to deliver radiation to a brain tumor to destroy the tumor cells while causing little or no radiation damage to the surrounding normal tissue.

Gamma Knife is not a knife and involves no cutting. It involves precision and radiation.

  • It doesn’t require an incision so there are none of the risks associated with incisions and anesthesia.
  • It requires only one treatment, and that usually takes 10-60 minutes depending on the individual case.
  • It works. There is evidence that treatment of certain malignant brain tumors with Gamma Knife surgery can increase a patient’s lifespan and improves quality of life.

GammaTile therapy is designed to delay brain tumor recurrence. It is a form of brachytherapy where seeds are placed inside a mesh, called a tile. A neurosurgeon from Mayfield Brain & Spine places the tile in the tumor and a radiation oncologist from OHC determines the amount of radiation. Once in place, it immediately begins to target residual tumor cells with radiation while limiting the impact on healthy brain tissue.

GammaTile has been cleared by the FDA for patients whose glioblastoma has grown back. Glioblastoma, the most aggressive type of glioma tumor, tends to be resistant to current treatments and has a high likelihood of recurrence.

OHC offers a treatment called Optune for patients who are 22 years of age or older and diagnosed with glioblastoma (GBM). Optune has been shown to slow progression of the cancer and reduce the symptoms associated with the disease.

Optune is made of strips of electrodes that cover a patient’s shaved head. The electrodes create low-intensity, alternating electrical fields that are designed to slow the growth of cancer cells. Optune can also shrink the tumor, which reduces pressure on areas of the brain where the tumor is located, thus alleviating symptoms such as headaches, nausea, memory loss, and changes in personality.

OHC patients say the cap is relatively comfortable and they feel almost nothing while wearing it – no tingling or electric pulses. And, they say removal feels similar to removing a band-aid.

OHC radiation oncologists as well as highly specialized neurosurgeons with Mayfield Brain & Spine are affiliated with the Brain Tumor Center at The Jewish Hospital – Mercy Health. This highly-specialized team offers the region’s only Gamma Knife® ICON™ radiosurgery program, with which OHC has treated more than 850 patients, and was the first in the eastern U.S. to offer GammaTile.