A brain tumor is an abnormal mass of tissue in which some cells grow and multiply uncontrollably. There are many different types of brain tumors, some of which are noncancerous (benign) and those of which are cancerous (malignant). Brain tumors can either start in the brain (primary brain tumor) and can be benign or malignant, or can spread to the brain from cancer that develops in other parts of the body (secondary or metastatic brain tumor) in which case they are malignant.
When normal mechanisms that control normal cells are damaged, cells may divide too rapidly and may eventually grow into a tumor. The growth of a tumor takes up space within the skull and interferes with normal brain activity. A tumor can cause damage by increasing pressure in the brain, by shifting the brain or pushing it against the skull, and by invading and damaging nerves and healthy brain tissue.
Symptoms of a brain tumor vary depending on the type of tumor, its size and location in the brain. However the most common symptoms include:
- Headaches that become more frequent and severe
- Unexplained nausea or vomiting
- Unexplained vision changes (blurred or double vision)
- Difficulties in speech processing, thinking or word finding
- Confusion and disorientation
- Seizures and/or convulsions
- Behavior or extreme personality changes
- Difficulty in keeping ones balance
- Memory loss
- Loss of movement in extremities
Diagnosis is done during a full neurological exam including collecting the medical history of the patient. Brain scans such as with an MRI or CT scan will also be done to confirm and verify the location of the brain tumor. A biopsy may also be done to determine whether the tumor is benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
Treatment options for brain tumors depend primarily on its size, type of tumor and location in the brain as well as the overall health of the patient. Brain tumors are usually treated with surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy or any combination thereof. Our expert team of specialists work together to diagnose and treat patients with brain tumors. Because the SCCNS' surgeons are principal investigators in the latest clinical research studies involving minimally invasive surgical procedures and devices, we use the most minimally invasive treatment possible to remove and treat brain tumors.
Surgery is the usual treatment for most brain tumors. A craniotomy is a common surgical procedure where the surgeon creates an opening in the skull to ensure that they have a clear pathway to the tumor. SCCNS uses the most highly sophisticated surgical navigation systems to accurately and safely remove brain tumors. Surgery in conjunction with radiation and/or chemotherapy may be necessary to treat remaining tumor tissue that could not be removed during surgery.
Depending on the location and size of the tumor, our surgeons may opt for an endoscopic endonasal approach. This innovative, through the nose technique has been perfected and refined by our experts at SCCNS. Specially designed instruments are used which eliminate the need for incisions. This approach provides a minimally invasive approach in accessing the anterior, middle and posterior cranial base. This allows for less discomfort and a shorter recovery time for our patients.
Because of the technological advances in the treatment of brain surgery, some patients with brain tumors may be candidates for Gamma Knife Radiosurgery. This revolutionary method of conducting noninvasive brain surgery is used by our experts at SCCNS on patients if it is determined that this treatment will be more effective than usual brain surgery. SCCNS is proud to offer this treatment at Southern California Regional Gamma Center at San Antonio Community Hospital in Upland, CA, the only center in the Inland Empire to offer this treatment.