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Advanced brain tumor care

Find a brain tumor neurosurgeon

Brain tumors

Whether you’re looking for a second opinion or want to learn more about treatment options for brain tumors, we’re here for you every step of the way. Our caring team of neurologists, neurosurgeons and oncologists use the latest technology and therapies, so you get excellent care, right where you live.

What is a brain tumor?

Primary brain tumors develop when the normal, healthy cells inside the brain begin to grow and function differently. These cancerous cells build up, forming a mass called a tumor, and can vary in degrees of aggressiveness (called grades).

Grades I and II are considered lower-grade (less aggressive) tumors. These types of tumors tend to grow more slowly and are less likely to affect nearby tissues. Grades III and IV are higher-grade (more aggressive) tumors that tend to grow more quickly. These types may leave the brain and travel into nearby tissues, often requiring a higher level of care and treatment.

Secondary brain tumors, also known as metastasis brain tumors, are tumors that grow within the brain after spreading from another area of the body, such as the lung, bowel, kidney, breast or prostate.

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Call us today to schedule a consultation with a brain tumor specialist at 800-275-6401.

Common types of primary brain tumors include:

  • Gliomas – These tumors occur in the brain and spinal cord. Gliomas are the most common type of brain tumor and their severity varies depending on their location and rate of growth.
    • Astrocytoma tumors – These tumors can form on the brain or spinal cord. While they are cancerous, they can either grow very slowly or aggressively. Treatment for astrocytoma tumors depends on their aggressiveness.
    • Ependymoma tumors – These tumors can form on either the brain or the spinal cord, but they’re more common in the spine for adults. They form in the ependymal cells that make cerebrospinal fluid — a fluid that supports your brain. These tumors can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
    • Oligodendroglioma tumors – Originating in the brain, these tumors are a rare type of glioma that usually form in the front part of the brain. While it’s extremely rare, they can also form on the spine.
  • Medulloblastoma – This is the most common type of malignant brain tumor and sometimes spreads to other parts of the brain and spinal cord. These tumors typically grow from the cerebellum (small brain), which can cause a buildup of fluid, putting pressure on the brain (hydrocephalus).
  • Central nervous system (CNS) lymphoma – CNS tumors are rare, malignant tumors that form from lymph tissues in the brain or spinal cord. Sometimes, these occur when lymph tissue spreads to the brain or spine from other parts of the body.
  • Meningioma tumors – These tumors grow in the meninges (membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord) and can compress nerves and vessels. They are the most common type of tumor to develop in the head.
  • Pituitary tumors – Tumors can form on your pituitary gland, which produces hormones that affect growth and the function of glands throughout the body. When a pituitary tumor forms, it can either cause the production of too many hormones or block hormone production.
  • Schwannoma – A schwannoma occurs when a tumor forms on the tissue surrounding the nerves. Often, this type of tumor is not cancerous.

Meet our team of brain tumor neurosurgeons.

Symptoms of brain tumors

The symptoms of a brain tumor can be similar to many other conditions and include:

  • Balance issues
  • Increased head pressure
  • Hearing problems
  • Loss of appetite or difficulty eating
  • Memory problems
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Numbness or weakness in the arms or legs
  • Personality changes
  • Changes in hearing
  • Seizures
  • Severe or frequent headaches
  • Slurred speech
  • Sudden vision problems
  • Trouble swallowing

Having any of these symptoms doesn’t mean you have a brain tumor. However, it’s important to make an appointment with your doctor to rule out any health issues.

Brain tumor risk factors

Often, a brain tumor’s cause is unknown. However, certain risk factors can increase your risk of developing a brain tumor. These include:

  • Age: While brain tumors can develop at any age, the risk is higher for adults 65 and older and children.
  • Gender: Men are more likely to develop a brain tumor than women.
  • Family history: If you have a family member who’s been diagnosed with a brain tumor, you’re at a higher risk. About 5% of brain tumors may be linked to genetics.
  • Health history: Certain aspects of your health history, including seizures and head injuries, can increase your chance of developing a brain tumor.
  • Other risk factors: Other factors that can raise the risk of developing a brain tumor include:
    • Previous radiation exposure
    • Certain infections, viruses and allergens

Diagnosing brain tumors

Detecting a brain tumor is the first step in treating it — so you can get back to living the life you love.

Some of the diagnostic tests your doctor may perform to test for a brain tumor include:

  • Magnetic resonance imagining (MRI) – MRIs use powerful radio waves and magnets to create detailed, 3D images of the brain.

Most MRIs operate at a strength of 1.5 Tesla (a unit that measures the strength of a magnetic field). Our team uses 3 Tesla MRI technology, which operates at twice the strength of traditional MRI scanners.

This technology provides highly detailed images of the brain, which allows us to treat tumors more accurately and better than ever.

  • Computerized tomography (CT or CAT) scans – CT and CAT scans use X-rays to obtain cross-sectional images of the brain.
  • Spinal tap – If you have this procedure, your doctor will remove fluid from your spine to help make a diagnosis.
  • Bone scans – Bone scans are nuclear imaging tests that help your doctor make a diagnosis.
  • Biopsies – During a biopsy, your doctor removes a small sample of tissue with a thin needle or during a surgical procedure. Then they examine the tissue under a microscope to determine if it contains cancerous cells (also called malignant cells).

Brain tumor care at Geisinger

While our specialists are experienced in treating even the most complex brain tumors, our entire team works together to help you fight your cancer — every step of the way.

Our brain tumor specialists are dedicated to providing innovative treatments and personalized care. We offer:

Surgery

Surgery is critical in the treatment of brain tumors and our highly trained surgeons begin every procedure with in-depth planning. Before any surgery, our team gathers information on brain anatomy and function using state-of-the-art imaging and neurophysiological studies (which test the integrity of nerves), helping them plan for surgery. 

When surgery is performed, our team uses minimally invasive techniques whenever possible alongside live imaging and neurological monitoring. Our surgeons are also trained in minimally invasive laser ablation surgery, using a laser probe during brain tumor surgery to burn rather than remove a tumor. Minimally invasive and laser ablation procedures often have a faster recovery time compared with traditional surgery.

Our surgery team works hard to plan as much as possible before surgery in order to provide you with a safe experience, faster recovery and a prompt return home.


Radiation therapy

Radiation oncology uses radiation to control or destroy harmful cancer cells.

Our board-certified cancer doctors and highly skilled clinical team deliver conventional radiotherapy treatments that include:

  • External beam radiation, which uses special technology to send radiation to the tumor from outside the body.
  • Internal radiation, which targets the tumor using safe levels of radiation.
  • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), which uses a 3D image of the tumor to deliver high-precision radiotherapy that fits the tumor’s exact outline.
  • Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT), which is used to treat cancers in areas of the body that move during and between treatments. This includes cone beam CT scans to accurately view the tumor and target it during treatment.
  • Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT), which uses precise beams of radiation to focus high doses of radiation shaped just around the tumor, with very little damage to surrounding healthy tissues.
Cyberknife

CyberKnife® robotic radiosurgery is a non-invasive treatment for tumors that are hard to reach or inoperable. This robotic therapy targets complex tumors — including cancerous and non-cancerous tumors — by delivering high doses of targeted radiation safely, anywhere in the body. And it’s offered at the Frank M. and Dorothea Henry Cancer Center at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre.

No incisions involved. So you have quicker treatments, less pain and faster recovery. Learn more about CyberKnife.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a drug-based treatment designed to slow the growth of or shrink tumors and can be given through an IV or taken in pill form.

Your chemotherapy may be given:

  • Before your surgery, to attempt to reduce the size of the tumor
  • After your surgery, to destroy any cancer that still remains in the area and reduce the chances of the cancer coming back
  • Along with radiation therapy, which is called chemoradiation or chemoradiotherapy

Because of the blood-brain barrier (the brain’s extra layer of protection that fights infection), traditional chemotherapy is not used to treat brain cancer. Our specialists use the latest laser therapy techniques to deliver targeted chemotherapy to better treat brain tumors. This includes intrathecal chemotherapy, which delivers chemotherapy through cerebrospinal fluid instead of through your bloodstream.

Clinical trials

Our cancer research and clinical trials give you access to new treatments, often before they become widely available. Participating in a trial may help improve your condition, even if standard approaches haven’t worked. Find a clinical trial near you.

Brain tumor care at Geisinger

While our specialists are experienced in treating even the most complex brain tumors, our entire team works together to help you fight your cancer — every step of the way.

Our brain tumor specialists are dedicated to providing innovative treatments and personalized care. We offer:

  • The knowledge you need – Your team is powered by surgeons, doctors and specialists with years of training and experience. Their expertise has been honed by treating many people with brain tumors. And their focus is on delivering the care best suited to your needs.
  • Care from all sides – Brain tumors aren’t simple, so we put all our best minds to work with you throughout your treatment. Your care team is multidisciplinary, which means it has many physicians from different specialties who come together to create a personalized treatment plan for you. That means you can see your care team in one location, all during the same visit. 
  • Care designed for you, where you live – With locations throughout northeast, central and south-central Pennsylvania, our experienced team provides consultations and comprehensive care. We offer leading-edge treatment options and tailored-to-you care backed by the expertise and innovation of a nationally recognized health system.
  • Comprehensive specialty care – From chemotherapy, radiation and minimally invasive surgery options to national clinical trials and genetic testing, our brain tumor specialists are dedicated to offering innovative treatment options and personalized care in convenient locations, so you don’t have to travel far. We’ll work with you to develop a personalized brain tumor care plan based on your individual needs.
  • Genetic testing and counseling programs – Special research programs such as MyCode® are only available at Geisinger. Participating in MyCode allows you to contribute to genetic research. By participating, you may also receive information about your own genetic risks. Learn about MyCode.
  • Cancer survivorship program – Just because your treatment is complete doesn’t mean your journey has ended. We offer a variety of support resources focused on helping you live your healthiest life. Learn about patient resources.