Brain and Spine Cancer | Diagnosis and Treatment | Loyola Medicine

Brain and Spine Cancer

Advanced Techniques to Treat Brain and Spine Cancer and Tumors

At Loyola Medicine, we are proud of our cancer treatment specialists who implement the latest technology to diagnose and treat brain and spine (central nervous system or CNS) cancer. At Loyola, an interdisciplinary team of experts works together to provide the most comprehensive treatment, resulting in the best outcomes for our patients.

Why Choose Loyola Medicine for Brain and Spine Cancer Treatment?

Loyola is a world-class academic medical center, and our clinical activities are enhanced with our vigorous approach to research. Our clinicians and laboratory investigators collaborate to better understand the growth and development of brain and spine tumors, so we can ensure the most positive outcomes for our patients.

Our team provides integrated, individualized care to every patient. Loyola utilizes advanced techniques to treat both newly diagnosed and recurrent malignant and benign tumors of the skull, brain and spinal cord.

Innovative Approaches for Brain and Spinal Tumor Removal

Loyola offers the unique following programs for the care and support of brain and spine tumor patients:

  • Loyola’s renowned Center for Cranial Base Surgery treats patients with tumors at the underside of the brain. It is an area that borders the brain, ears, eyes, nose, throat and neck. Neurosurgeons, otolaryngologists and other specialists each bring unique expertise to treat these tumors, which often surround the nerves and blood vessels traveling to or from the underside of the brain.
  • The Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center is a convenient multidisciplinary clinic for patients with brain, nervous system and head and neck cancers. Meanwhile in the neuro-oncology laboratory, scientists are studying how tumors grow in order to develop new treatments.

What are Brain and Spinal Tumors?

A brain or spinal tumor is a mass or growth of abnormal cells in your brain or spine. Some brain and spine tumors are noncancerous (benign) and some are cancerous (malignant). Learn more about brain tumors, skull and spinal cord tumors.

Primary tumors, those that start in the brain or spine, differ from tumors that start in other organs, such as the lung or breast. Tumors that start in another part of the body and then spread to the brain or spine are called metastatic or secondary brain tumors. 

Unlike cancers that start in other parts of the body, tumors that start in the brain or spinal cord rarely spread to distant organs. All tumors of the brain and spinal cord are considered serious because they can cause damage to nearby brain tissue.

There are many different kinds of brain and spine cancer. At Loyola, we are proud of our vast knowledge of these cancer types. We offer diagnosis and treatment for the following:

  • Metastatic brain tumors
  • Mixed glioma
  • Oligodendroglioma
  • Other metastatic brain and spine tumors​
  • Pituitary adenoma
  • Schwannoma (neurilemmoma)

In addition to the cancer types mentioned above, there are several types of tumors that can start near the brain. While these tumors may be cancerous, they are not often referred to as brain or spine cancer:


How is Brain and Spine Cancer Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of brain and spine cancer is most often initiated because of the signs and symptoms a patient exhibits. If your doctor suspects a tumor, additional exams and test will be conducted. Those tests can include the following:

  • Brain or spinal cord tumor biopsy
  • Chest X-ray
  • CT scan (computed tomography)
  • Functional MRI (fMRI)
  • Lumbar puncture (spinal tap)
  • Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA)
  • Magnetic resonance perfusion
  • Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS)
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • Medical history and physical exam
  • PET scan (positron emission tomography)


How is Brain and Spine Cancer Treated?

Brain and spine tumor treatment options depend on the type of tumor you have, as well as its size and location.

Once a brain tumor has been diagnosed, a patient is seen by a neurosurgeon, neurologist or neuro-oncologist. Treatment may begin with surgery, followed by radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy

Loyola’s neurosurgeons regularly collaborate with radiation oncologists on a leading-edge stereotactic radiation oncology program. Stereotactic radiation is effective in treating small tumors of the head and brain when conventional surgery or standard radiation therapy may pose too great a risk to the patient.

Loyola was also among the first centers to use computerized surgical navigation systems and has gained more than a decade of experience with these technologies. The team can offer patients innovative approaches to the medical management of brain tumors, including participation in clinical trials and national cooperative studies.

Tumors of the spine, whether primary or metastatic, are often treated with surgery to remove as much tumor as possible, followed by radiation and/or chemotherapy.

Regardless of your cancer type, you will receive the most comprehensive care at Loyola from a team of specialists that includes neurosurgeons, otolaryngologists, neuro-oncologists, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists and neuroradiologists.

Our surgeons use the latest technologies in the operating room, which enable us to remove tumors while preserving your function and quality of life.

Brain and Spine Cancer Research at Loyola

Loyola is proud of the advances we have pioneered in the field of brain and spine cancer, and we continue to make progress in the research and study of this cancer type. Our research is widely recognized.