Finding out you have a brain tumor is overwhelming enough, and then you are faced a lot of complex information — and decisions you never wanted to have to make. Where to seek care is one decision you can make confidence. The Tulane Health System Neuroscience Center has the compassionate care, specialized experience and advanced technology you need under one roof, and we’ll make sure you understand your options and what to expect.
From diagnosis through treatment and follow-up care, we draw from all the resources offered by Tulane Health System. We’re committed to building knowledge and improving treatment for brain tumors, and we use innovative, proven tools and methods, including minimally invasive techniques that can speed recovery and healing — and save lives.
What is a Brain Tumor?
Brain tumors are abnormal growths of tissue inside the skull. They can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Even if a growth is not cancerous, it can put pressure on sensitive tissue in the brain, threatening your health and life.
Tumors that start in the brain are called primary tumors. Tumors that spread from cancer somewhere else in the body are said to be metastatic. Primary tumors usually grow more quickly.
What are the Symptoms of Brain Tumors?
Symptoms can vary depending on where in the brain the tumor is, its size and other factors.
Symptoms of brain tumors can include:
- Headaches, often in the morning
- Nausea and vomiting
- Vision or hearing problems
- Behavior or mood changes
- Unclear thinking or memory problems
- Loss of balance or dizziness
- Problems hearing or speaking
- Feeling weak or sleepy
How are Brain Tumors Diagnosed?
To diagnose a brain tumor, our team will begin with a physical and neurological examination. Lab tests and imaging techniques, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT), will help our doctors confirm the diagnosis and pinpoint the location of the tumor.
To determine whether a tumor is cancerous and find out other details, doctors will need to examine a sample of the tumor, called a biopsy. The sample can often be taken with a needle instead of open surgery.
How are Brain Tumors Treated?
Treatment for brain tumors is complex and requires a team of specialists with extensive knowledge of neuro-oncology. You team may include neurosurgeons, neurologists, medical and radiation oncologists, and endocrinologists. Others that might help care for you may include physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, psychologists, social workers and rehabilitation specialists.
You will probably need surgery if your tumor can be safely removed. Modern surgical techniques can remove tumors that in years past would have been considered inoperable.
Our specialists are experts in minimally invasive pituitary and skull base surgery to remove tumors, using a thin, lighted tube called an endoscope. If open surgery is necessary, our neurosurgeons are highly respected and experienced, and use the advanced techniques, such as the NICO BrainPath. The BrainPath uses a unique tool that helps doctors get to your tumor by moving delicate brain tissue out of the way, reducing tissue damage.
For a type of brain tumor called glioblastoma, we offer targeted therapy with Optune, a wearable, portable device that delivers treatment directly to the part of your brain where the tumor is located. The treatment is delivered through adhesive patches attached to your scalp and does not enter the bloodstream, so side effects are minimal.
You may also need other treatments, such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy or targeted therapy (using medicine that attacks cancer cells without harming other cells).
The Tulane Neuroscience Center has the specialized care you need, and we’ll provide it with compassion and respect for your preferences and decisions. Whatever your treatment needs are, you will be in skilled and experienced hands.
When researching brain tumors, make sure your sources are reliable. Here are some good places to start:
Medline Plus from the National Institutes of Health and the National Library of Medicine
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke brain and spine tumor page