Advanced stroke care to get you back to those you love

Brain and Spine Tumors - Neuro-oncology

CHI Memorial Stroke and Neuroscience Center’s comprehensive brain tumor program offers advanced treatment for brain and spinal tumors and other spinal pathologies. This includes primary and secondary brain tumors, brain aneurysms, degenerative spine conditions, peripheral nerve conditions, and infections of the brain and spine.

Because many types of tumors will require additional treatment beyond surgery, close collaboration with CHI Memorial’s cancer specialists ensures delivery of the very best care. Our multidisciplinary team approach gives patients access to the right treatment options – in the right sequence – needed to improve outcomes.  

Primary care physicians are often the first ones to identify brain tumors through imaging, and it’s important for those identified to be evaluated by a neurosurgeon right away to determine the appropriate treatment plan, which may include observation or surgery. Today, new technologies and advanced, minimally invasive techniques mean a lower risk of complications and a much faster recovery time.

CHI Memorial Stroke and Neuroscience Center specialized care for these conditions: 

Primary Brain Tumors – These brain tumors are categorized as either high grade (which grow rapidly) and low grade (which grow slowly). Symptoms are typically related to the location rather than the size of the tumor, and these details along with advanced imaging can help your physician make a diagnosis. Depending on the type and stage of your cancer, recommended treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a combination of treatments. 

Metastatic (Secondary) Brain Tumors – Metastatic tumors are the most common type of brain cancer and cause weakness and numbness on one side of the body, seizures, difficulty with speech or comprehension, constant headaches that worsen over time and personality or emotional changes. Because metastatic tumors are made of different types of cells, treatment is different from a primary brain tumor. Because removing a metastatic tumor is typically one part of the overall treatment plan, neurosurgeons work with radiation and medical oncology teams to carefully coordinate treatment.

Skull Base Tumors – Many different types of tumors can grow at the skull base, causing symptoms when they begin to put pressure on the brain. These include headaches, altered sense of smell, trouble swallowing, double vision, difficulty breathing or hearing loss. Nausea and vomiting, memory loss or balance issues may occur. Because these tumors grow deep within the skull, they can impact critical blood vessels in the head, neck, brain and spinal cord. Using the right approach is key to preserving speech, hearing, and eyesight. Your treatment plan may involve traditional or minimally invasive surgery, radiation or a combination. When the tumor is benign and can be removed completely, surgery may be the only necessary treatment.>

Orbital Tumors – These abnormal growths of tissue in the structures around the eye can be benign or cancerous and may be primary (meaning the tumor began there) or metastatic (meaning the tumor has spread from another part of the body). Treatment of these tumors may include traditional surgery, endovascular surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and other medical interventions. Because the eye is so delicate, a multidisciplinary approach to the treatment of these conditions is critical to a successful outcome.

Thanks to improvements in multispecialty treatment and procedure planning, imaging and new surgical approaches, brain surgery is safer and more effective than ever before.  

Specialized Treatments

A patient’s function is always the highest priority throughout any surgical procedure on the brain. In the past, treating certain types of brain tumors, particularly those deep within the brain, would require a large incision, removing part of the skull and dissecting deep inside the brain’s critical pathways. Today, with the use of leading-edge technology and advanced surgical techniques, many patients can stay just one night in the hospital and quickly return to normal activities.  

One specialized treatment available at CHI Memorial is an awake craniotomy to treat certain types of brain tumors. This revolutionary procedure is used for mapping and removing lesions in vitally important areas of the brain. This helps neurosurgeons monitor brain function while a surgery is in process, leading to better neurological post-surgery outcomes. 

During an awake craniotomy, a patient is placed under general anesthesia while the brain is being exposed. Next, an anesthesiologist wakes the patient after part of the skull had been removed. Based on the location or the tumor and the function to be preserved, speech pathologists are in the operating room throughout the procedure to test the patient’s abilities. That might include naming objects, looking at pictures, and completing word association tasks. If cognition is the area of concern, this testing might also include performing some type of multitasking or other neuropsychology testing.  

During this portion of the procedure, brain mapping technology is used to ensure specific structures aren’t damaged and to remove as much of the tumor as possible. 

After the brain tumor has been removed, the patient is put back to sleep and their surgical site is closed. Patients typically spend one to two days in the ICU and will experience some difficulties the first few days after surgery due to normal expected brain swelling. Patients also receive referrals for speech and language therapy to help them regain their baseline cognitive abilities. Most patients return to their base line in two to six weeks after surgery.  

Dr. Babu performing craniotomy

Ranjith Babu, MD, neurosurgeon, performing a craniotomy.