Brain & Spinal Tumors
Our brain tumor and spinal tumor specialists begin by understanding the types of cells that make up a tumor and pinpointing its location in the brain or spine.
Brain and spinal tumors can be cancerous or noncancerous. Some tumors start in the brain or spine and are called primary tumors. Others are called metastatic tumors because they represent a spread of disease from a primary tumor to elsewhere in the body.
At El Camino Health Cancer Center, our team of multidisciplinary cancer specialists work together to evaluate all possible options for treating your brain or spinal tumor and help you select the best course of treatment. Our doctors, nurses and other staff members pay attention not only to the details of your cancer treatment, but also to the emotional and mental toll of cancer on you and your family.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Brain tumor symptoms vary depending on the tumor’s location in the brain. Often, tumors can cause additional pressure in the brain or push on delicate brain structures. Depending on the location of the tumor, common symptoms include:
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Changes in your ability to talk, hear or see.
- Balance or walking difficulties.
- Thinking or memory problems
- Personality changes.
- Muscle jerking or twitching.
- Numbness or tingling in the arms or legs.
We realize how distressing a diagnosis of a brain tumor can be. Our doctors and staff will do everything we can to make you feel comfortable and at ease.
Following a thorough history, physical and neurologic exam, our doctors will perform tests including MRI or CT scans and biopsies (tissue sample from the brain).
These tests can help us understand the exact size and location of a tumor and whether the tumor is benign or cancerous. If it’s cancerous, we also can determine the type of cancer cell, which allows us to choose the most effective possible treatment.
If you have a brain tumor, our surgeons, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists collaborate closely to determine whether chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery — or a combination of these — will give you the best chance for recovery.
Surgically removing the tumor is often the best option for long-term cure. Your doctor will evaluate if you’re a candidate for surgery and whether your tumor can be removed without causing harm to your brain.
The Radiation Treatment Center at El Camino Health offers all available radiation technologies to treat brain tumors, including stereotactic radiosurgery (Edge™), adaptive radiation therapy (Ethos™) and intensity-modulated radiation therapy (RapidArc®) as well as internal radiation therapy, called brachytherapy (Bravos™). All of these methods known for their high levels of precision, speed and ability to spare healthy tissue surrounding the tumor.
Radiation oncologists at El Camino Health have performed more than 5,000 radiosurgery treatments on many types of cancer and offer consultations within 24 hours.
Because there are so many types of brain tumors, we use a number of anticancer drugs, generally in pill form. We aggressively treat chemotherapy side effects with anti-nausea and pain medications, plus intravenous hydration as you need it.
El Camino Health’s ability to provide targeted therapy is uncommon among community hospitals. We create a unique combination of drugs that will combat your specific type of cancer. We study a sample of your tumor in a lab to analyze the proteins and chemicals that make up the tumor. Then, we use current data to decide which drugs will have the maximum effect in eliminating the cancer.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
A spinal tumor is a growth of cells — cancerous or noncancerous — in the spinal cord, in the membranes covering the spinal cord, or between the membranes and bones of the spine.
Tumors that have spread to the spine from another site (metastatic tumors) often progress quickly. Tumors that originate in the spine often grow slowly over weeks or years.
Symptoms may include:
- Loss of sensation in the legs or feeling cold in the legs, fingers and hands.
- Back pain that worsens over time and may radiate to the hips, legs, feet or arms; isn’t relieved by pain medication; and worsens when lying down, straining, coughing or sneezing.
- Fecal incontinence (inability to control bowel movements).
- Urinary incontinence (inability to control urine).
- Muscle contractions, twitches, spasms, weakness or loss of function.
Following a neurologic exam to help pinpoint the location of the tumor, our doctors can perform tests to learn more about a possible tumor. At El Camino Health, our diagnostic tests include:
- Imaging tests such as MRI, CT scan and spine X-rays.
- Spinal tap to take a sample of cerebrospinal fluid around the spinal cord for further study.
- Myelogram, a test using dye injected into the space around the spinal cord and X-rays to create images of spinal structures and any tumors in the area.
Our cancer program’s team of experts treats you quickly to relieve symptoms and prevent nerve damage that could be caused by the tumor putting pressure on the spinal cord.
Our treatments for spinal tumors include:
- Medications to reduce inflammation and swelling around the spinal cord.
- Surgery in some cases to relieve compression on the spinal cord by removing all or part of a tumor.
- Radiation therapy. The Radiation Treatment Center at El Camino Health offers all available radiation technologies to treat brain tumors, including stereotactic radiosurgery (Edge™), adaptive radiation therapy (Ethos™) and intensity-modulated radiation therapy (RapidArc®) as well as internal radiation therapy, called brachytherapy (Bravos™)— methods known for their high levels of precision, speed and ability to spare healthy tissue surrounding the tumor.
- Chemotherapy in a limited number of cases to kill cancer cells.
- Physical therapy to help improve muscle strength and coordination following treatment.
In addition to advanced therapies, El Camino Health offers a variety of specialized services, support and assistance to address the psychological, emotional and spiritual needs of you and your family members throughout treatment and recovery.
The El Camino Health Cancer Center works with other medical centers and the National Cancer Institute to offer you the opportunity to participate in ongoing clinical trials. Ask your doctor about how to participate in a clinical trial, and if one may be right for you.