Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors in Adults

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Treating Brain/CNS Tumors In Adults TOPICS

How are brain and spinal cord tumors in adults treated?

This information represents the views of the doctors and nurses serving on the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Information Database Editorial Board. These views are based on their interpretation of studies published in medical journals, as well as their own professional experience.
The treatment information in this document is not official policy of the Society and is not intended as medical advice to replace the expertise and judgment of your cancer care team. It is intended to help you and your family make informed decisions, together with your doctor.
Your doctor may have reasons for suggesting a treatment plan different from these general treatment options. Don’t hesitate to ask him or her questions about your treatment options.

General comments about treatment

Brain and spinal cord tumors can often be hard to treat and may require care from a team of different types of doctors. This team is often led by a neurosurgeon, a doctor who uses surgery to treat brain and nervous system tumors. Other doctors on the team may include:

  • Neurologist: a doctor who diagnoses brain and nervous system diseases and treats them with medicines
  • Radiation oncologist: a doctor who uses radiation to treat cancer
  • Medical oncologist: a doctor who uses chemotherapy and other medicines to treat cancers
  • Endocrinologist: a doctor who treats diseases in glands that secrete hormones

Many other specialists may be involved in your care as well, including physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, psychologists, social workers, rehabilitation specialists, and other health professionals.

Several types of treatment can be used to treat brain and spinal cord tumors, including:

Treatment is based on the type of tumor and other factors, and often more than one type of treatment is used. Doctors plan each person’s treatment individually to give them the best chance of treating the cancer while limiting the side effects as much as possible.

It’s important to discuss all of your treatment options as well as their possible side effects with your treatment team to help make the decision that best fits your needs. If there is anything you don’t understand, ask to have it explained. (See the section “What should you ask your doctor about adult brain and spinal cord tumors?” for some questions to ask.)

If time permits, getting a second opinion from a doctor experienced with your type of tumor is often a good idea. It can give you more information and help you feel more confident about the treatment plan you choose.

The next few sections describe the various types of treatments used for brain and spinal cord tumors. This is followed by a description of the most common approaches used based on the type of tumor.

Last Medical Review: 03/05/2014
Last Revised: 01/07/2015