Brain Tumor Center Services

Experts at the Brain Tumor Center offer the full range of diagnostic and treatment options for patients with primary and metastatic brain tumors.

Scan of a brain

Diagnosis

An accurate diagnosis is the critical first step toward building a care plan for each patient. Our doctors can identify and confirm the presence of a brain tumor through a physical examination, followed by a computerized tomography (CT) scan or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.

Highly sophisticated diagnostic techniques enable our physicians to pinpoint the precise location and shape of a brain tumor. For example, the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of the first cancer centers in the area to use the most current MRI technology as well as CT/PET imaging systems to provide a "picture" of brain activity that helps doctors diagnose and plan treatment for cancer patients. This advanced technology allows doctors to view hard-to-see tumors and improves the effectiveness of cancer treatments.

Another sophisticated computer-imaging tool--known as intraoperative image-guided surgery (IGS) or neuro-navigation--helps our surgeons perform safe biopsies and complete resections of tumors.

Treatment

Thanks to recent medical advances, people with brain tumors have many treatment options, including surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

At the University of Chicago, neurologists coordinate these options with our nationally recognized neurosurgeons and oncologists. This ensures that patients receive the most comprehensive treatment, tailored to their individual needs.

Surgery

Today, innovative, high-precision surgical techniques and tools enable University of Chicago neurosurgeons to operate on deep brain tumors that were once considered inoperable. Some of these newer techniques and tools include:

  • Innovative minimally invasive neurosurgery, which offers shorter recovery times and fewer complications than traditional surgery. For example, surgeons may treat tumors using endoscopic techniques, which involve operating through a small incision using thin tubes to protect and retract delicate tissues yet provide an unimpeded avenue to tumors.
  • Computerized neuro-navigation systems, which allow greater accuracy during procedures to remove abnormal tissues, and greater preservation of healthy tissues.
  • Skull-base surgical techniques, which enable neurosurgeons to operate on tumors located near the base of the skull without destroying vital brain and brain-stem functions.
  • Both minimally invasive and image and electrophysiologically guided spinal neurosurgery for removing tumors of the spine and spinal cord.
  • The full range of conventional and complex open skull and spine surgeries to treat tumors, brain and spinal cord swelling, seizures, and other conditions.

Radiotherapy

Even when surgery appears to have removed a malignant tumor, neurosurgeons often recommend radiation therapy to ensure destruction of any cancer cells that might remain. For benign tumors, radiation therapy may be used to slow or halt tumor growth, or to treat a recurring tumor.

At the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center, adults and children with brain tumors have access to the most sophisticated radiation treatment technologies. This includes innovative image-guided radiation treatment devices. This image-guided radiotherapy technology allows doctors to choose from several different types of radiation treatment techniques. Some of the advanced radiation options available include:

  • Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS), which utilizes highly accurate positioning systems and 3D imaging to map the locations of the tumor and surrounding anatomy with high precision. Without any incision, doctors can accurately target a high-dose radiation beam directly on the tumor that can cause it to shrink or even disappear. Even very small lesions can be treated with SRS, using advanced technology that is available at the medical center.
  • Intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT), a new, highly precise form of three-dimensional conformal radiotherapy, which uses computers and multiple beams to "shape" radiation to the treatment area. IMRT allows doctors to "turn up" the radiation dose on tumor areas while excluding sensitive regions, such as the brain stem and spinal cord.
  • Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT). The University of Chicago is one of the first hospitals in the country to provide IGRT. In IGRT, advanced imaging and treatment technology is combined to more precisely identify a tumor’s position in order to provide the most accurate delivery of radiation dose to the tumor.

Our mutli-modal system can be used to treat benign and malignant brain tumors, as well as other neurological conditions, such as arteriovenous malformations and trigeminal neuralgia.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy medications can target cells at various stages of their life cycle as well as impede cellular vital functions to slow or stop tumor growth. Chemotherapy is used to treat many types of benign and malignant tumors. Different types of brain tumors respond to different types of chemotherapy.

Sometimes, the brain itself can compromise the effectiveness of chemotherapy. The problem is caused by the blood-brain barrier, a network of blood vessels that protects the brain and blocks foreign substances from reaching the brain. Thus, the brain-blood barrier can hinder chemotherapeutic agents from reaching the brain. To solve this problem, physicians at the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center are testing new drugs that will help chemotherapy medicines "hurdle" that blood-brain barrier, as well as novel mechanisms to deliver tumor-killing agents into the brain.

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Information from the National Cancer Institute

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