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Brain Cancer

Diagnosis | Personalized Treatment | Research and Clinical Trials | Additional Patient Support

The experienced, collaborative team of specialists at NorthShore Kellogg Cancer Center combines the most advanced scientific knowledge and technology with a comprehensive and compassionate approach to care, creating a program of technology with a comprehensive and compassionate approach to care. Our patient-centered care focuses on personalized brain tumor treatment options to best suit each individual patient.

Drawing from the diverse experience of physicians, surgeons, nurses, researchers and a host of other highly trained healthcare professionals, the Kellogg Cancer Center team works collaboratively and is dedicated to putting patients—and families—at the center of a healthcare experience that delivers individualized brain cancer treatments.

Physicians at the Kellogg Cancer Center collaborate with colleagues at the NorthShore Neurological Institute when appropriate.

Brain Tumor Diagnosis

A brain tumor diagnosis can be achieved by evaluating an individual using various tests, including:

  • A neurological exam
  • An MRI scan, which can confirm an abnormality in your brain
  • Surgical removal of tumor or biopsy
  • Other radiological tests

If a brain tumor is diagnosed, a surgery or biopsy is usually necessary to determine the type of brain tumor based on its microscopic features. The type of tumor is determined by the types of cells and additional microscopic characteristics that give each tumor a grade, typically from I to IV. Brain tumor treatment is recommended based on the type and grade of the tumor.

Some of the more common types of brain tumors include:

  • Meningiomas are brain tumors that arise from the covering of the brain and represent about 30 percent of primary brain tumors. The majority of meningiomas are benign (grade I), but can be more aggressive (grade II and III). Meningiomas can often be observed, but interventions such as surgery and radiation are often necessary if the tumor grows or causes neurologic symptoms.
  • Gliomas are primary brain tumors made up predominantly of the supporting cells in the brain that normally help keep nerve cells healthy.  Glioma is a broad term that refers to astrocytomas, oligodendrogliomas and ependymomas.
    • Astrocytomas are the most commonly diagnosed brain tumors, representing about 20 percent of all primary tumors. A grade IV astrocytoma, also known as glioblastoma, is the most common glioma in adults and one of the most difficult to treat effectively. Grade II astrocytoma (diffuse astrocytoma) and grade III astrocytoma (anaplastic astrocytoma) are also found in adults and tend to behave less aggressively than grade IV astrocytomas.
    • Oligodendrogliomas represent about 2 percent of all primary brain tumors. Oligodendrogliomas tend to respond more favorably to chemotherapy than astrocytomas, particularly those with specific genetic alterations which can be tested for routinely. Similar to astrocytomas, oligodendrogliomas are graded from II to III based on the microscopic features.
    • Ependymoma represent about 2 percent of all primary brain tumors and can also be found in the spinal cord. This brain tumor diagnosis is often treated with radiation after surgery. It is graded from II to III.  
  • Brain Metastases are secondary forms of brain cancer which develop when cancer cells from another part of the body spread to the brain. These tumors are more common than primary brain tumors; cancer cells often metastasize from lung cancer, breast cancer, melanoma and renal cancer. Symptom management includes corticosteroids to reduce swelling and anticonvulsants for those who experience epileptic seizures. Treatment plans are dependent on the location, size, origins and number of tumors present, and can include radiation and medical therapies, or surgery.

Our neuro-oncologists also provide expertise on additional lesions and rare brain tumors, including:

  • Gangliogliomas represent less than 2% of primary brain tumors in adults, and more commonly occur in children and young adults. Tumors are usually grade I, and are benign and slow-growing, with the very rare instance of grade III anaplastic ganglioglioma, which is malignant. They are a combination of ganglion and glial cells that grow within the central nervous system, most frequently in the temporal lobe. Treatment consists of surgery to remove the entire tumor.
  • Arachnoid Cysts are one of the most common types of brain cysts, and are fluid-filled sacs that develop in between the brain or spinal cord and the arachnoid membrane, one of three membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. The more common primary arachnoid cysts are present at birth, while secondary arachnoid cysts can develop during childhood or adulthood as a result of trauma, illness or tumors. Asymptomatic cysts will remain under watch – those that display symptoms can be removed through minimally-invasive procedures to drain the fluid.

Personalized Brain Tumor Treatment

NorthShore's Neuro-Oncology Program was one of the first established in the Chicago area. We care for adults who have been diagnosed with brain and spinal cord tumors. NorthShore’s team of neuro-oncologists manages and oversees each patient’s care from diagnosis through treatment, coordinating with other specialists as needed. NorthShore’s neuro-oncologists have led and participated in numerous pivotal studies that are transforming the care of our patients—and of patients elsewhere in the world. Our dedicated neuro-oncology nurses are available every day for patient questions and concerns, and are a great source of education and support.

NorthShore offers patients diagnosed with brain cancer a full range of surgical options and brain cancer treatments. The treatment of brain tumors varies by tumor type and size, as well as its location. Your team will work with you to determine which option is best for you.

Brain tumor treatment may include: 

Every week, your Kellogg team participates in a multidisciplinary conference to discuss each patient’s case in detail and to design a personalized treatment plan. This "meeting of the minds" provides critical input, resulting in an individualized brain cancer treatment plan outlining the best course of action for each patient. For brain cancer, your team may include your medical oncologistsurgeon, radiation oncologist, geneticist, neuro-oncology nurse, pathologist, nutritionist, pharmacist, interventional radiologist, social worker and researchers, all focused on you.  Our team of oncology specialists are often able to apply personalized medicine techniques to improve care and better guide brain cancer treatment options.

Patients are at the center of this multidisciplinary team, and Kellogg staff arrange for them to be seen by their multidisciplinary team at one appointment, not only for their convenience but to provide a consensus on their course of treatment. Our use of one of the most advanced Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems in the country enhances our open communication and promotes collaboration in our patient care.

Research and Clinical Trials

Kellogg's neuro-oncologists are also involved in multiple clinical trials and studies, offering patients promising new methods of cancer detection and treatment. Our specialists have led and participated in numerous pivotal studies that are transforming the care of our patients—and of patients elsewhere in the world.

NorthShore patients have access to clinical trials and brain cancer treatment options that are not available at other hospitals in the region. In fact, more than one third of our patients are referred from well beyond our service area, both from locations across the country and internationally.

NorthShore is the first in the nation to provide our patients and their family members with Health Heritage, a secure tool that helps individuals create a complete family health history and personalized risk reports.

Additional Patient Support

Kellogg Cancer Center’s unique services and resources assist patients and family members with a variety of challenges they may face from diagnosis, treatment and beyond. A wide array of support services are available to patients that include our integrative medicine services, financial advocacy and survivorship, to name a few.

For More Information

For more information on types of brain tumors and treatments or to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, please call 847.570.2112.