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Brain Cancer

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

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. Our team of neuro-oncologists oversees each patient’s care from diagnosis through treatment, coordinating with other specialists as needed. NorthShore’s experts have led and participated in numerous pivotal studies that are transforming the care of our patients—and of patients elsewhere in the world.

The experienced specialists at NorthShore Kellogg Cancer Center combine the most advanced scientific knowledge and technology with a comprehensive and compassionate approach to care. Drawing from the diverse skill sets of physicians, surgeons, nurses, researchers and a host of other highly trained healthcare professionals, the Kellogg Cancer Center team works collaboratively to place 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.

Our dedicated neuro-oncology nurses are available for patient questions and concerns, and are a great source of education and support.

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

There are many different types of brain tumors—some benign, some malignant. Surgical removal or a biopsy of the tumor makes it possible to determine its type and grade based on its microscopic characteristics. Tumor grading (I to IV) describes how fast- or slow-growing the tumor may be and how likely it is to spread. Determining the type and grade of the tumor helps in guiding appropriate treatment and optimizing outcomes.

Some of the more common types of brain tumors include:

  • Meningiomas 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 be observed, but interventions such as surgery and radiation are often necessary if the tumor grows or causes neurologic symptoms.
  • Gliomas are 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) tend to behave less aggressively than grade IV astrocytomas.
    • Oligodendrogliomas represent about 2 percent of all primary brain tumors. Oligodendrogliomas often respond favorably to chemotherapy, particularly those with specific genetic alterations that can be routinely tested. 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 frequently treated with radiation after surgery. It is graded from II to III. 
  • Brain Metastases are secondary forms of brain cancer. They 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 percent 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. 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 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 location. Your team will work with you to determine which option is best for you.

Brain tumor treatment may include: 

Your Kellogg team participates reguarly in a multidisciplinary conference to discuss your case in detail and to design a personalized treatment plan. This "meeting of the minds" provides critical input to determine the best course of action for your care. Your brain cancer 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.

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. 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.

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.