What Are Brain Tumors?
A brain tumor is a mass or growth of abnormal cells in the brain. Physicians refer to a tumor based on where the tumor cells originated and whether they are most aggressive (malignant) or least aggressive (benign). Some tumor types are assigned a grade, ranging from Grade I (least malignant, grows more slowly) to Grade IV (most malignant, grows rapidly), which signifies the rate of growth. Physicians use the classification and grade of an individual tumor to help predict its likely behavior.
- Benign – The least aggressive type of brain tumor. They originate from cells within or surrounding the brain, do not contain cancer cells, grow slowly, and typically have clear borders that do not spread into other tissue.
- Malignant – Brain tumors that contain cancer cells and often do not have clear borders. They are considered to be life-threatening because they grow rapidly and invade surrounding brain tissue.
- Primary – Brain tumors that start in cells of the brain. They may spread to other parts of the brain or the spine, but rarely to other organs.
- Metastatic – Sometimes referred to as secondary brain tumors. They begin in another part of the body and then spread to the brain. These tumors are more common than primary brain tumors and are named by the location in which they begin.
There are over 120 different types of brain tumors, many with their own multitude of subtypes. Some brain tumors, such as a glioblastoma multiforme, are malignant and may be fast-growing. Other types of brain tumors, such as a meningioma, may be slow-growing and benign.
Some common types of brain tumors are:
- Acoustic Neuroma
- Anaplastic Astrocytoma
- Brain Metastases
- Glioblastoma Multiforme
- Glomus Tumors
- Parotid SCCA
- Pituitary Adenoma
- Skull Base Tumors
- Vestibular Schwannoma
Brain tumor symptoms can vary according to tumor type and location. Most common symptoms include:
- Recurrent headaches
- Issues with vision
- Short-term memory loss
- Poor coordination
- Difficulty speaking or comprehending
Because these symptoms may overlap with those of other conditions, it is important to get the correct diagnosis to find the right treatment. Make an appointment with your primary care physician or neurologist if you are experiencing persistent signs and symptoms that concern you.
If a brain tumor is suspected, your physician may recommend a series of tests and procedures starting with a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Once an MRI shows a tumor in the brain, additional tests will be done to learn more about the tumor, including sometimes the type or grade, of a brain tumor. After diagnostic testing is done, our board-certified radiation oncologists will work with you and your physician to plan your personalized treatment plan or provide a second opinion from the results of these tests.
More than any other cancer or condition, brain tumors can have lasting and life-altering physical, cognitive, and psychological impacts on a patient’s life. It is important to find the treatment that is right for you and will treat the tumor while minimizing radiation exposure to surrounding healthy tissue.
The CyberKnife® Robotic Radiosurgery System is a proven and effective treatment option for brain tumors. The System painlessly delivers precise beams of high-dose radiation to brain tumors without incisions, hospitalization, or a long recovery time. It is an excellent treatment for brain tumors that are considered inoperable because of their location in the head, for patients who are not good candidates for surgery due to other health or medical conditions, or for patients who choose not to undergo surgery.
The System also improves on other radiosurgery techniques by having patients wear thermoplastic masks (mesh masks) during treatment, eliminating the need for a fixed metal head frame attached with screws to the patient’s head. CyberKnife enables stereotactic targeting without a stereotactic frame, enhancing patient comfort, and simplifying the procedure. Simple immobilization devices such as masks and a foam cradle keep the patient comfortably in position throughout the treatment.
The CyberKnife is composed of a linear accelerator mounted on a robotic arm. The highly maneuverable, precise delivery system enables physicians to achieve an exceptional level of accuracy in a noninvasive manner. During treatment, the patient lies still and relaxes as the CyberKnife’s computer-controlled arm moves quietly around the head area, delivering high-dose radiation directly to the tumor, ablating the cells of the tumor while minimizing radiation exposure to critical areas in the brain.
- Outpatient procedure, no anesthesia or hospitalization required
- Five or fewer treatment sessions
- Noninvasive, no incisions needed
- Typically pain-free treatment
- Reaches brain tumors from virtually unlimited directions with robotic mobility
- Targets individual brain tumors with pinpoint accuracy
- Enables clinicians to maximize and conform the dose to the brain tumor
- Minimal radiation exposure to healthy tissue surrounding the brain tumor
- Little to no recovery time and almost immediate return to your normal daily activities
- Minimal, if any, side effects due to pinpoint precision of high-dose radiation delivery