Diseases We Treat
- Brain Tumor
- Spinal Tumor
The Neuro-Oncology department provides state-of-the-art treatment for patients with cancers of the brain and nervous system. Physicians in the department also provide expert care for patients that endure neurologic complications from cancer or cancer therapies. We care for more than 500 new patients with brain tumors each year.
Our team of skilled and experienced physicians participates in a multidisciplinary approach to cancer care — neurologists treat central and peripheral nervous system conditions that may affect cancer patients, while neuropsychologists diagnose and treat cognitive and behavioral effects of cancer, or help patients learn ways to minimize cancer's impact on their quality of life. In addition, physicians in the department work with neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists, neuropathologists and neuroradiologists to plan a course of treatment that is unique and comprehensive for each patient. The physicians treat patients that are battling central nervous system tumors, including gliomas (glioblastoma multiforme, astrocytoma, brainstem glioma, ependymoma, oligodendroglioma), meningioma, vestibular schwannoma, central nervous system lymphoma, metastatic disease to the brain and spine, or primary spinal cord tumors.
Physicians in Neuro-Oncology also specialize in genetic disorders. Neurofibromatosis is a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow in the nervous system. The Neurofibromatosis Working Group provides exceptional care and treatment for patients with the disorder. It also works to translate laboratory advances into improved treatments for these patients. The group is a collaborative effort that includes Neuro-Oncology, Neurosurgery, and Investigational Cancer Therapeutics.
In high school, I didn’t have much of a social life. I had trouble with insomnia, anxiety, paranoia, depression and apathy. As time went on, it became increasingly disruptive to my life.
Then, when I was 16, I learned that my mental torment wasn’t just teenage anguish -- it was a brain tumor. During a physical, a nurse noticed that my pupils didn’t react to her light, so I was taken to a neurologist for an MRI.
The MRI scan revealed a lemon-sized tumor growing on my pineal gland, a small gland in the brain responsible for producing the hormone melatonin. It was surprising because I hadn’t experienced more common physical brain tumor symptoms like headaches or seizures. Even though I was in complete shock after hearing I had brain cancer, I felt hope for being cured and finally finding an answer to my problems.
My brain tumor treatment and side effects
After a biopsy at our local hospital, I was diagnosed with pineal region germinoma. My family chose to bring me to MD Anderson because of the success stories they’d heard and the hospital’s superb reputation for cancer care.
I started treatment with four rounds of chemotherapy in early 2008, followed by 30 rounds of proton therapy radiation to the brain. The chemotherapy caused mild neuropathy in my feet; they tingled when I woke up and touched the floor. The proton therapy made some of my social issues worse. I had trouble thinking of what to talk about, which caused even more frustration and anxiety.
I finished treatment and was declared cancer-free by the end of 2008. But it took longer for my neuropathy and mental issues to improve. I continued to feel socially handicapped. I was suicidal for years, unable to cope with the thought of losing my teenage years.
Making up for lost time
In 2016, I was accepted to Texas State University, and I finally started coming back to life. Now, I talk to everyone in my classes. I have a large group of friends, and I’m very social. I guess you could say I’m making up for lost time!
My goal is to become a writer, speaker and advocate for teenage cancer survivors. Even after I finished treatment and my brain tumor was physically gone, it took a long time to heal and recover mentally and emotionally. I continue to check in with my neuro-oncologist, John Slopis, M.D., every six months to monitor my health.
During treatment, I listened to a lot of music -- everything from John Mayer to heavy metal. I learned to play guitar a few years before my diagnosis, but brain cancer took away my interest in playing for a long time. I only began playing again as I started to feel better recently. It really helped me to start entertaining myself in a creative, positive way.
Advice for teenage cancer survivors
As I’ve learned, it’s important not to look at yourself as a victim. I used to see being a cancer survivor as a cold, hard reality. But I want to encourage other teen cancer survivors to not stumble into a negative mindset like I did. Stay confident. Stay positive. Know that it will be OK. You are a warrior!
Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.
The Neuro-Oncology Fellowship program provides intense, comprehensive training in the management of primary brain tumors and neurological complications of cancer. Our overall goal is to cultivate the careers of young physician-scientists to become leaders in the field of neuro-oncology.
The two-year fellowship program is carefully, but flexibly designed to accommodate the individual needs of candidates aiming at either clinical practice or academic positions upon completion of training.
The MD Anderson postdoctoral fellowship in clinical neuropsychology is a structured two-year fellowship which provides competency-based postdoctoral training in clinical neuropsychology appropriate for those seeking to pursue ABPP Board specialization in Clinical Neuropsychology. The Fellowship is accredited by the Association of Postdoctoral Programs in Clinical Neuropsychology (APPCN). As a member of APPCN, selection of candidates is conducted through the National Match hosted by NMS.
The Neuro-Oncology academic offices are located in the John Mendelsohn Faculty Center, Floor 7. Get customized directions using our Access system.
1400 Holcombe Blvd.
Room FC7.3000, Unit 431
Houston, TX 77030
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Department of Neuro-Oncology
P.O. Box 301402
Houston, TX 77230-1402