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Brain Tumor Treatment

Some of the nation’s top experts customize your brain tumor care at MD Anderson. They take a team approach to deliver the most advanced therapies with the fewest possible side effects, keeping a constant eye on your quality of life.

These highly trained physicians work together to give individualized care for malignant (cancer) and benign (non-cancer) brain tumors, collaborating and communicating frequently. Your personal team of experts may include renowned neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists and neuro-oncologists, supported by a specially trained staff.

Surgical Expertise

Like all surgeries, brain tumor surgery is most successful when it is performed by a specialist with a great deal of experience in the particular procedure. This is especially true with brain tumors because it is crucial to remove as much of the tumor as possible while leaving intact as much brain function as possible.

MD Anderson neurosurgeons are among the most skilled and recognized in the world. They perform a large number of brain tumor surgeries each year, using the least-invasive and most advanced techniques.

And MD Anderson has the most modern technology available to treat brain tumors, including:

  • Brainsuite®
  • Gamma Knife
  • Proton therapy

Our Brain Tumor Treatments

If you are diagnosed with a brain tumor, your doctor will discuss the best options to treat it. This depends on several factors, including the location and type of the cancer and your general health.

Your treatment for a brain tumor will be customized to your particular needs. One or more of the following therapies may be recommended to treat the cancer or help relieve symptoms.

Surgery

Surgery usually is the first treatment for brain tumors. Even when complete removal is not possible surgery may be able to:

  • Help reduce the tumor’s size
  • Relieve symptoms
  • Help doctors decide what other treatments are needed

The most common surgery for brain tumors is craniotomy, which involves opening the skull. Some brain tumors can be removed with little or no damage to the brain. However, many grow in areas that make them difficult or impossible to remove without destroying important parts of the brain.

Brainsuite® iMRI

When a brain tumor is in a challenging location, our neurosurgeons can use this innovative open MRI system that allows them to view the tumor during surgery. This helps them remove as much of the tumor as possible without damaging other parts of the brain. MD Anderson’s Brainsuite is the first in the world of its type.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy may be able to stop or slow the growth of brain tumors that cannot be removed with surgery. It may be used:

  • Alone
  • With chemotherapy to help the radiation work better or lessen effect on normal parts of the brain
  • With targeted therapies to destroy remaining cancer cells

New radiation therapy techniques and remarkable skill allow MD Anderson doctors to target brain tumors more precisely, delivering the maximum amount of radiation with the least damage to healthy cells.

MD Anderson uses the most advanced radiation treatment methods, including:

  • Gamma Knife radiosurgery, which is not really surgery. It delivers a pinpoint dose of radiation from hundreds of angles.
  • Focused radiation therapy, which is aimed directly at the tumor and immediately surrounding area
  • Whole-brain radiation therapy, which may be needed if you have two or more brain tumors in different locations
  • Intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT), which shapes the radiation beam to the shape of the brain tumor and lessens exposure to the rest of the brain
  • Proton therapy

Proton Therapy

The Proton Therapy Center at MD Anderson is one of the largest and most advanced centers in the world. It’s the only proton therapy facility in the country within a comprehensive cancer center.  

Proton therapy delivers high radiation doses directly to the brain tumor site, with no damage to nearby healthy tissue. It may be used to treat tumors in very sensitive areas, including in the skull base and along the spine.  

Laser Interstitial Thermal Therapy

Laser interstitial thermal therapy (LITT) is performed by implanting a laser catheter into the tumor and heating it to temperatures high enough to kill the tumor.

The treatment is minimally invasive, often requiring little more than a 2-millimeter incision in the scalp, and takes just a few minutes to perform. Most patients can go home the day after treatment and can quickly return to normal activities.

LITT is currently being used to treat patients with primary and metastatic brain tumors, but can also help patients who do not respond to stereotactic radiosurgery or have radiation necrosis (tissue death caused by radiation treatment).

Chemotherapy

MD Anderson offers the most up-to-date and advanced chemotherapy options for brain tumors. These drugs may be taken orally or by injection. They may be given alone or with other treatments.

Chemotherapy often is not as effective for brain cancer as some other types of cancer. This is because of the blood-brain barrier, small blood vessels in the brain and spinal cord that protect the brain from harmful substances. They also may act as a shield against chemotherapy drugs.

Targeted Therapies

These new drugs target the specific gene changes that cause cancer. MD Anderson is at the forefront of discovering these agents. Many of our brain tumor clinical trials include analysis of the molecular profiles of patients' tumors.

Clinical Trials

MD Anderson patients have access to clinical trials offering promising new treatments that cannot be found anywhere else.

Knowledge Center

Find the latest news and information about brain cancer in our Knowledge Center, including blog posts, articles, videos, news releases and more.

Counseling

MD Anderson has licensed social workers to help patients and their loved ones cope with cancer.

myCancerConnection

Talk to someone who shares your cancer diagnosis and be matched with a survivor.

Prevention and Screening

Many cancers can be prevented with lifestyle changes and regular screening.

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