Treatment & Care at NCH

Brain Cancer

The Latest in Cancer Treatments. A Leader in Early Detection.

NCH offers a high standard of personalized care to those who suffer the life-threatening effects of brain cancer. Brain tumors can compress sensitive brain tissue and nerves within the head, causing patients to experience vision loss, hearing loss, difficulties with balance, pain or seizures, and other symptoms. As tumors grow larger, they can disrupt critical parts of the brain responsible for breathing and other basic life functions. 

Brain Cancer Defined

Brain cancer is an abnormal growth of cells in the brain that results in a collection of cells called a brain tumor. If the abnormal cells were originally brain cells, it is a primary brain tumor. If the abnormal cells originated in another part of the body, such as the lung or breast, and were carried to the brain by the blood or other body fluid, it is a metastatic brain tumor. More than 18,000 cases of primary brain tumors and more than 170,000 brain metastases are diagnosed in United States each year.

Primary Brain Tumors

There are many types of primary brain tumors, including meningiomas, pituitary adenomas, schwannomas and gliomas, which are divided into astrocytomas, ependymomas, medulloblastomas and oligodendrogliomas. Each primary brain tumor is categorized based on the type of normal brain cell from which they originated and has its own unique characteristics and growth patterns. Gliomas account for 40 percent of all primary brain tumors and it is not common for them to spread from the brain to other parts of the body. The most aggressive type of glioma is called glioblastoma multiforme (GBM).

Metastatic Brain Tumors

The cells that form metastatic brain tumors travel to the brain from other parts of the body through the bloodstream, along nerves or within the fluid surrounding the spinal cord and brain. These cells most commonly originate in tumors within the lung, breast, skin or colon, and are deposited in the brain where they grow into a tumor.

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Computed Tomography (CT) Scan

A CT scan or sometimes called a CAT scan is a painless and a non-invasive medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. CAT is an abbreviated name for computerized axial tomography which uses a very thin special X-ray beam to produce detailed, cross sectional views of the area being studied. The images can be examined on a computer or printed. CT imaging is often the preferred method of diagnosing causes of pain and many different forms of cancer. CT imaging of the internal organs, bone, blood vessels and soft tissue can provide greater clarity than conventional x-ray exams.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Open MRI

MRI is an abbreviation for magnetic resonance imaging. This is an imaging examination that aids physicians in diagnosis and treating medical conditions. In contrast to more common imaging procedures such as X-Rays of CT scans that uses ionizing radiation, MRI uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to make images of the body. This allows for very detailed pictures of the bones, internal organs, and soft tissues of the body. MRI is widely used to diagnose sports-related injuries, especially those affecting the knee, shoulder, hip, elbow, and wrist. The images allow the physician to see even very small tears and injuries to ligaments and muscles.

Treatment 1

CyberKnife System

The CyberKnife System delivers high doses of radiation directly to brain tumors, offering patients a non-invasive alternative to brain cancer surgery. CyberKnife can be used for brain tumors that are considered inoperable because of their location in the head, for patients who cannot undergo brain cancer surgery due to their poor medical condition, or patients who refuse surgery. The CyberKnife System also can treat benign, or non-cancerous, tumors and other conditions, such as trigeminal neuralgia, arterialvenous malformations (AVMs), and menigioma. CyberKnife brain cancer treatments are typically performed on an outpatient basis with one to three treatments, requiring no overnight hospital stays. Most patients experience minimal to no side effects with a quick recovery time.

Treatment 2


During the last 25 to 30 years, radiosurgery has emerged as an alternative to surgery. Unlike conventional radiation therapy, during which small doses of radiation are delivered over weeks and months, radiosurgery can treat a tumor in one to five sessions by delivering a high dose of radiation with extreme accuracy. During radiosurgery, hundreds of narrow radiation beams are delivered from different angles, all intersecting at the tumor. This treatment allows the tumor to be attacked by a high dose of radiation without damaging surrounding sensitive brain tissue. To be effective and safe, radiosurgery must be accurate. To achieve this accuracy, some radiosurgery devices, such as the Gamma Knife®, require a rigid stereotactic frame be affixed to a patient’s head so the system can pinpoint the exact location of a tumor. These frames are screwed into a patient’s skull after local anesthesia is given. Many patients find these frames to be uncomfortable and painful. In addition, patients may have to be hospitalized if they have multiple fractions

Other radiosurgery devices, such as the CyberKnife Robotic Radiosurgery System, improve on other radiosurgery techniques by eliminating the need for stereotactic frames. As a result, the CyberKnife System enables doctors to achieve a high level of accuracy in a non-invasive manner and allows patients to be treated on an outpatient basis.

Treatment 3


For solitary tumors that are not near the brain’s most critical structures, such as those involved in vision or regulation of breathing, the most common treatment option is surgery. Surgery is used for primary brain tumors, such as a GBM, as well as solitary brain metastases and benign tumors. Surgery is often followed by whole brain radiation therapy or partial brain radiation techniques to eliminate any microscopic bits of the tumor. In some cases, malignant brain tumors can be treated in combination with chemotherapy for greater effect.

Treatment 1

Radiation Therapy

External beam radiation therapy is a common treatment for primary and metastatic brain tumors. Treatment for primary brain tumors is typically done over a 5-7 week period. The tumor volume is planned by a 3-D technique ensuring precise treatment to the tumor volume. Metastatic brain cancer is treated over a 2-3 week time frame. Generally the area being treated is larger to encompass the entire brain.

Treatment 1


Chemotherapy medication is delivered orally or through an IV. It affects both normal tissue and the cancer cells, so patients may experience side effects, such as severe nausea and vomiting, infections, fatigue and weight loss. Chemotherapy is typically given to a patient in combination with other types of brain cancer treatment. For example, it may be given after whole brain radiation therapy to target both the metastatic tumors in the brain and the tissues outside the brain that originally produced the cancer cells.

The NCH Cancer Team

Multidisciplinary team of cancer healthcare specialists

Northwest Community Hospital teams of highly experienced, board-certified physicians including surgeons, pathologists, oncologists, radiologists and other specialists, Magnet®-designated nurses, advanced practice nurses, social workers, dieticians and rehab specialists work together to provide the best possible cancer care throughout your cancer treatment process.

These teams meet weekly to review all NCH cancer diagnosis and treatment plans —giving all of our cancer patients the benefit of ten or more second opinions. NCH's team-based approach to cancer treatment gives you the attention and care you deserve.

Medical Oncologist - Physicians who specialize in diagnosing and treating cancer.

Neurologists & Surgical Oncologists - Specially trained in the surgical treatment of cancer.

Radiation Oncologists - Specializing in treating cancer with radiation.

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Patient Story
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Steve's Story

Steve's Story

When a tumor about the size of a pea was identified in the right frontal lobe of Steve's brain, doctors at NCH recommended CyberKnife Radiosurgery System. Steve had one treatment and the tumor was precisely targeted and destroyed.

Read Steve's Story

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