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Brain Tumor Program

As Georgia’s largest and most comprehensive cancer care network, Northside Hospital Cancer Institute (NHCI) is a skilled provider of treatment and support for patients diagnosed with a brain tumor or tumors of the central nervous system (CNS). Our Brain Tumor Program has performed more brain tumor treatments utilizing Gamma Knife® technology than any other hospital in Georgia.

With a network of 50 cancer centers across Georgia and the most board-certified oncology providers in the state, we are committed to providing safe and effective patient care, from diagnosis through treatment and into post-treatment rehabilitation and support.

What Is a Brain Tumor?

Primary brain tumors (gliomas) start in the brain and affect the central nervous system (CNS). They can be noncancerous or cancerous. Secondary brain tumors, which are 10 times more common, are cancers that originated elsewhere in the body and have metastasized (spread) to the brain.

Learn more details about brain tumors.

Symptoms of a Brain Tumor

Brain tumor symptoms depend on the tumor's size, location, how far it has spread, and whether there is brain swelling. Some tumors do not cause symptoms until they are very large while other tumors have symptoms that develop slowly. The most common symptoms of brain tumors include:

  • New onset or changes in patterns of headaches
  • Headaches that become more frequent and more severe
  • Unexplained nausea or vomiting
  • Vision problems such as blurred vision
  • Gradual loss of sensation or movement in an arm or in a leg
  • Balance problems
  • Speech problems
  • Confusion
  • Personality or behavior changes
  • Seizures
  • Hearing problems

Click here to learn more about brain cancer symptoms.

Brain Tumor Risk Factors

Most of the time, the cause of a brain tumor is unknown, but the following factors may raise a person’s risk of developing a brain tumor:

  • Radiation exposure
  • Family history of brain tumors - a small percentage of brain tumors may be hereditary (approximately 5%)
  • Having a weakened immune system

Our Cancer Genetics Program is dedicated to helping patients assess, understand and reduce the risk of developing certain types of genetically influenced cancer such as brain cancer. Individuals with a strong family history of cancer, which may include earlier than average age at cancer diagnosis and multiple family members with the same type of cancer or cancers associated with the same genetic causemay benefit from a consult with one of our genetic counselors.

Some patients may be referred for a consult after receiving a diagnosis of brain cancer and before initiation of treatment. The Cancer Genetics Program can help newly diagnosed patients understand the role that genetics might play in their treatment decisions.

For more information on the Cancer Genetics Program or to schedule an appointment, please call 404-851-6284 or email genetics@northside.com.

Diagnosing Brain and CNS Tumors

More than 17,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with a brain or CNS tumor each year. Some brain tumors are benign (noncancerous). Noncancerous tumors can usually be removed and are not likely to recur. Other brain tumors are malignant (cancerous). These tumors interfere with vital functions and are life threatening. Cancerous brain tumors usually grow rapidly, crowding and invading brain tissue.

There are no widely recommended tests to screen for brain tumors. Most brain tumors are found when a person sees a doctor because they recognize signs or are experiencing symptoms and undergo a diagnostic neurological exam and imaging tests to determine a diagnosis.

Northside Hospital offers the following services to diagnose brain and CNS tumors:

We offer specialized care for many different types of brain and CNS tumors including:

  • Metastatic cancer in the brain, spine or cerebrospinal fluid
  • Gliomas and malignant gliomas (i.e., glioblastoma)
  • Meningiomas and malignant meningiomas
  • Spinal cord tumors
  • Neurologic complications of cancers

Learn more about diagnosing brain and CNS tumors.

Team of Brain Tumor Specialists

The strength of the NHCI Brain Tumor Program is our multidisciplinary team of highly skilled, sub-specialized neurosurgeons, medical oncologists, and radiation oncologists who work together every step of the way to provide individualized care for each patient diagnosed with a brain or CNS tumor. Northside’s Brain Tumor Program offers a comprehensive scope of medical services, the latest technology, leading-edge clinical research and compassionate support.

Treating brain and CNS tumors requires a team of neuro-oncology specialists working together to provide the best care possible for the patient. Our brain cancer multidisciplinary care team consists of:

  • Neurosurgeons
  • Medical oncologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Neurologists
  • Neuroradiologists
  • Pathologists
  • Palliative care physicians
  • Certified genetic counselors
  • Neuro-oncology nurse navigator
  • Clinical research nurses

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Multidisciplinary 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

NHCI’s multidisciplinary conferences, during which neuro-oncology specialists discuss brain and CNS tumor cases, provide a forum for physicians and clinical support staff to review radiology and pathology images, discuss the best Brain Cancer Treatment Options, including clinical trials, and agree upon an evidence-based treatment plan for each patient. By prospectively discussing cancer cases during conference, patients get the benefit of not just one clinical perspective but more than a dozen expert opinions.

Brain & CNS Tumor Treatment Options

Northside Hospital Cancer Institute is committed to providing high quality care for patients with brain and CNS tumors and seeks to make access to that care as convenient as possible.

We treat many different types and grades of brain and CNS tumors with the latest treatment technologies including utilization of Gamma Knife® Icon technology—the most advanced treatment for malignant and benign brain tumors. We also offer personalized therapies based on the cancer’s specific genetic makeup. Northside Hospital Cancer Institute neuro-oncology specialists and supportive care team members work together to ensure all patients receive high quality, evidence-based care.

Expand the content below for more information about brain tumor treatments and brain cancer therapies.

Active surveillance involves closely watching a patient’s condition without giving any treatment unless changes in test results show the condition is getting worse. During active surveillance, certain exams and tests are done on a regular schedule. Active surveillance may be used for very slow-growing tumors that do not cause symptoms.

Brain surgery may be used to both diagnose and treat adult brain and spinal cord tumors. Surgery is often the most effective form of treatment for brain tumors, but may not be available to every individual due to the location and specifics of each brain tumor.

Additionally, at our Northside Hospital Atlanta campus, a dedicated inpatient neuroscience unit is designed specifically for patients undergoing neurosurgery.

Chemotherapy uses medication to destroy cancer cells by stopping growth. At Northside's Infusion Centers, chemotherapy is provided on an outpatient basis by registered nurses who are certified in chemotherapy administration.

Northside offers the following chemotherapy treatments for brain cancer:

  • Systemic chemotherapy - treatment with anticancer drugs that travel through the blood to cells all over the body
  • Regional chemotherapy - treatment with anticancer drugs directed to a specific area of the body
  • Combination chemotherapy - treatment using more than one anticancer drug
  • Intrathecal chemotherapy - treatment in which anticancer drugs are injected into the fluid-filled space between the thin layers of tissue that cover the brain and spinal cord

Radiation therapy is a treatment that uses high energy X-rays or radiation to kill cancer cells. Radiation may be used before the surgery to shrink a tumor or after surgery to kill remaining cancerous cells.

Radiation therapy options for treating brain and CNS tumors include:

We offer Gamma Knife® radiosurgery to treat malignant and benign brain tumors. Technically a form of radiation therapy, this technique is planned and administered by a specially trained team consisting of a neurosurgeon and radiation oncologist. It does not require anesthesia or a scalpel and can often be given in one day on an outpatient basis. Gamma Knife® Icon enables physicians to target tumors in the brain with unsurpassed accuracy.

Learn more about our Radiation Oncology Program

Targeted therapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells. Monoclonal antibody therapy is a targeted therapy offered by Northside Hospital to treat brain cancer.

Clinical trials are studies that involve people and are a critical part of oncology research. These studies test new ways to prevent, detect, diagnose or treat cancer. People who take part in cancer clinical trials have an opportunity to contribute to scientists’ knowledge about cancer and to help in the development of improved cancer treatments. They also receive state-of-the-art care from cancer experts. Ask your doctor for more information.

Learn more about Cancer Clinical Trials and Research at Northside Hospital.

Learn more about all of the NHCI cancer treatment options available

Brain & CNS Tumor Support & Survivorship

Ongoing support is crucial when you are facing treatment for a brain or CNS tumor and afterward. Northside Hospital Cancer Institute provides a full range of support and survivorship programs and services to address the unique needs of brain and CNS tumor patients.

Brain cancer treatment and recovery can be overwhelming, which is why the Northside Hospital Cancer Institute Brain Tumor Program provides access to oncology nurse navigators to guide patients every step of the way on their cancer recovery journey. Our neuro-oncology nurse navigator is a registered nurse with extensive knowledge and training in neuro-oncology. Nurse navigators help guide patients after a cancer diagnosis and throughout treatment; provide education and support so that patients make informed decisions about their care; and, work with neurosurgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, and other neuro oncology specialists to coordinate each patient’s treatment plan.

Support provided by oncology nurse navigators includes:

  • Providing clinical information and education
  • Answering questions about diagnosis, treatments and side effects
  • Initiating and facilitating communication between the patient and their oncology care team
  • Monitoring each patient’s health and overall treatment progress
  • Providing access to emotional and psychological support, including referrals to counseling services and our Monthly Brain Cancer Support Group

For brain and CNS tumor patients and survivors, Northside Hospital is ready to give you the support you need. To learn more about oncology patient navigation or to speak with an oncology nurse navigator, 404-300-2800 or email nurse.navigator@northside.com.

Ongoing support is crucial when facing cancer and afterward. Northside Hospital Cancer Institute provides a full range of Support and survivorship programs and services to address the unique needs of brain cancer patients.

Our oncology nurse navigators facilitate access to Northside Hospital Cancer Institute’s comprehensive portfolio of patient support services depending upon each patient’s unique needs.

Network of Hope

The Network of Hope (NoH) program connects cancer patients with trained volunteers who have also faced cancer and embraced life afterward. Volunteer cancer survivors and caregivers are available to mentor cancer patients throughout their treatment.

To request a mentor, please email networkofhope@northside.com. To become a mentor after you complete your treatment, please call 404-851-8707 or email networkofhope@northside.com.