Brain & Spine Tumor Institute
More option. More hope.
The Brain & Spine Tumor Institute at Geisinger is at the forefront of diagnosing and treating the most complex spine, nerve and brain tumors. Home to two of the few fellowship-trained neurosurgical oncologists in the state of Pennsylvania—the Brain & Spine Tumor Institute focuses on surgical precision and state-of-the-art technology.
Patients receive comprehensive care for a wide range of services, a dedicated team of specialists trained at some of the best medical centers in the country, and cutting edge technology and treatments. Geisinger’s multi-disciplinary approach provides patients with highly specialized care for the treatment of brain and spine tumors.
The Brain & Spine Institute at Geisinger has made recent advances in neuro-oncology with a team led by Steven Toms, MD and Michel LaCroix, MD, who spent the past decade focused on the diagnosis, treatment and research of brain tumors and related disorders.
From highly trained medical experts to compassionate social workers and helpful support groups, Geisinger offers the highest level of care close to home. Every patients team includes:
- medical oncologists
- radiation oncologists
Symptoms of Brain Tumors
- Persistent headache
- Nausea and vomiting
- Speech problems, impaired vision, weakness in parts of the body, trouble walking, and general confusion
Symptoms of Spinal Cord Tumors
- Pain or numbness below a certain level on the body
- Weakness in both legs or all four limbs
- Difficulty in controlling bowel and/or bladder function
Below is a brief definition of the various types of brain and spine tumors.
Primary Brain Tumors
Primary brain tumors can be benign or malignant:
Benign tumors do not contain cancer cells:
- Benign tumors can usually be surgically removed, and they rarely grow back.
- Benign brain tumors can have an obvious border or edge. Cells from benign tumors seldomly invade the tissue around them and don't spread to other parts of the body. However, benign tumors can press on sensitive areas of the brain and cause serious health problems.
- Unlike benign tumors in most other parts of the body, benign brain tumors can be life threatening.
- Benign brain tumors can become malignant.
Malignant tumors (also called brain cancer) contain cancer cells:
- Malignant tumors are typically more serious and most often are life threatening.
- They tend to grow rapidly and invade the healthy tissue around them.
- Cancer cells from malignant brain tumors may break away the tumor and spread to other parts of the brain or to the spinal cord. They rarely spread to other parts of the body.
- Metastatic Brain Tumors are cancer that spreads to the brain from another part of the body and is different from a tumor that starts in the brain. Lung, breast, and kidney cancers, melanoma, and other types of cancer commonly spread to the brain.
Geisinger’s Neuroscience Institute offers a wide array of procedures for brain and spine tumors. These include:
With the combined experience of our neurophysiologist, neurosurgeons, and neuroanesthesiologists, Geisinger is able to offer awake craniotomy, a type of brain surgery that minimizes the potential loss of motor control. Awake craniotomy is a procedure that keeps the patient awake in order to respond to questions during surgery. This procedure allows surgeons to pinpoint the exact location of the tumor in order to protect surrounding, healthy tissue.
Stereotactic radiosurgery is an advanced technology that allows delivery of very precise radiation therapy in high doses to the exact tumor location. The procedure can be used to shrink a tumor instead of surgical removal and as a follow-up to surgery to eliminate any tumor particles that remain after surgery.
Endoscopic Endonasal Surgery
This cutting-edge procedure allows our neurosurgeons to access tumors in the skull-base and upper spine through the nose and nasal sinuses. Because this procedure is done endoscopically using a tiny video camera, patients have reduced brain trauma, fewer complications, minimal scarring and a faster recovery time.
Geisinger’s clinical neurophysiologists are specially trained to continuously monitor the electrical activity of the patient’s brain and spinal cord during surgery. This helps our neurosurgeons clearly identify – and avoid – those portions of the brain and spinal cord that control key functions like movement, speech, and sensation.
For benign lesions that lie close to the skull base, such as pituitary tumors, meningiomas and craniopharyngiomas, endoscopic skull-base surgery provides an innovative alternative to the traditional craniotomy in suitable patient candidates. A minimally invasive procedure, endoscopic skull-base surgery requires no incision and allows for reduced manipulation of the brain. Less pain and swelling after surgery, as well as shorter hospitalizations and recovery periods, are additional advantages of this technique.
Physician Team Leaders
- Steven Toms, MD, MPH, FACS, Neurosurgeon
- Michel Lacroix, MD, FACS, FRSCS(C) , Neurosurgeon
- Amir Dehdashti, MD, Neurosurgeon
- John Cantando, DO, Neurosurgeon
- Atom Sarkar, MD, Neurosurgeon
- Amir Kershenovich, MD, Pediatric Neurosurgeon
Patients who receive the unexpected and overwhelming diagnosis of a brain or spine tumor need to know that they have world-class experience and expertise on their side. Geisinger brings together an impressive group of physicians whose experience, compassion, and multidisciplinary practices offer reassurance to each patient they treat.
Geisinger’s physicians were trained at the world’s leading healthcare institutions, each of which is well known for its brain and spine tumor treatments. These physicians—surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, neurologists, and pathologists—meet weekly to determine the most effective treatment strategy for each individual patient. A multidisciplinary clinic allows the patient to see each member of the team during one visit and immediately receive a treatment plan.
At Geisinger, patients with brain tumors receive:
- Care from experienced specialists
- Cutting-edge technologies that aid in diagnosis and treatment
- Innovative clinical trials