The time between the onset of symptoms and the discovery and treatment of a brain tumor is often quite short. This can leave those with brain tumors and their families feeling frightened and overwhelmed with many questions. Our dedicated brain tumor nurse navigator will coordinate every step of your care, answering questions and working with your care team throughout your diagnosis and treatment. Our specialty-trained interdisciplinary team provides you with nationally ranked, compassionate care.
Whether you need treatment for a cancerous or noncancerous brain tumor, The University of Kansas Health System, in partnership with The University of Kansas Cancer Center, provides comprehensive treatment for the most complex tumors. It is our goal to achieve maximum tumor removal for the most successful symptom control, highest rates of survival and most improved quality of life.
Download our brain tumor guide
It can be frightening and overwhelming to learn you or a loved one may have a brain tumor. Our experts are here to support you every step of the way. Download our free brain tumor care guide for information on the most advanced treatments and the region’s largest specialized team.
What is a brain tumor?
A tumor is a growing mass of abnormal cells. A brain tumor occurs when this mass develops within the brain. Primary brain tumors are those that originate in the brain. Others metastasize, or spread, to the brain from elsewhere in the body.
Gliomas account for the majority of primary brain and spine cancer in adults, while meningiomas make up the majority of noncancerous tumors. Some meningiomas can behave like malignant tumors, and some gliomas can be treated effectively and remain in remission for many years, if not cured.
Brain tumor symptoms and risks
It is rare for someone without symptoms to be diagnosed with a brain or spinal tumor. Sometimes, an unrelated medical study – such as an X-ray following a car accident – may reveal an unexpected mass.
There is no single symptom that definitively indicates a brain or spinal tumor. Possible symptoms include:
- New seizures
- Personality changes
- Progressive headaches
Some tumors grow quickly and cause symptoms to become more severe in several days to weeks. Others cause symptoms to worsen slowly, over months or years. Some people experience a seemingly sudden event that leads to diagnosis. It’s common to feel quite normal just a week or two before a brain tumor diagnosis.
Brain tumor diagnosis and screening
An accurate diagnosis is critical in determining the best course of treatment for your brain tumor. Our team performs a complete evaluation to determine the exact type and location of every tumor using the latest techniques:
- Computed tomography (CT) scan of the chest, abdomen and pelvis to evaluate whether there is cancer in other parts of the body
- Functional MRI (fMRI), which allows care teams to localize language, motor and vision activities in the brain and includes specialized oversight by a neuropsychologist. We are the Kansas City metro region's only hospital to offer the unique expertise of a neuropsychologist to read and interpret the fMRI scans.
- Magnetic resonance perfusion to capture images of blood flow and volume, often elevated in aggressive tumors
- Magnetic resonance spectroscopy for information on the chemical composition of the brain
- Positron emission tomography to detect metabolic activity, which is seen in fast-growing, aggressive tumors
Brain tumor treatment
It is critical to quickly diagnose brain tumors. A brain tumor requires a personalized treatment approach, which should begin promptly. Our board-certified neuroradiologists are subspecialists trained to interpret imaging studies. They are accessible 24/7 to review imagery and share the results with the brain tumor care team.
Brain tumor treatment is multifaceted and individualized for each person. Our collaborative team addresses the physical, mental and emotional effects of complex brain tumor treatment. Once the specific tumor type – cancerous or noncancerous – is determined, the right treatment can begin.
There are many possible treatment options, each dependent upon the tumor’s type and location as well as other information about the tumor.
When a tumor occurs in a critical portion of the brain, such as a speech or primary movement area, a patient may remain awake so they can interact with the surgical team and help guide them. The patient is meticulously overseen by specialized neuroanesthesiologists to ensure the patient is safe and feels no pain.
A form of radiation treatment, brachytherapy involves placement of radioactive seeds in or around brain tumors, directing high radiation doses to the tumor while protecting the surrounding healthy tissue. The radiation seeds are placed after the tumor has been removed to allow for immediate postoperative radiation that reduces the chances for tumor regrowth. GammaTile, one type of brachytherapy, is an FDA-cleared, targeted radiation therapy that helps slow tumor regrowth. The University of Kansas Health System was the first in the region to offer GammaTile to treat aggressive brain tumors. The tile is placed immediately after brain tumor removal surgery to deliver targeted radiation. Made of collagen, it is safely reabsorbed by the body over time.
Chemotherapy delivers medication orally or by IV infusion to attack cancer cells anywhere they reside within the body. Our fellowship-trained specialists have extensive experience in determining which types of chemotherapies are best to attack even the rarest forms of cancer.
Immunotherapy trains the body's own immune system to destroy cancer cells. T cells are removed from the body and genetically reengineered, then introduced into the body and able to hunt and destroy cancer cells.
Neurosurgery is often the best and fastest way to reduce the bulk of the tumor, preparing you for radiation or chemotherapy if needed. When possible, our team will perform minimally invasive endoscopic surgery, which relies on collaboration between ENT physicians and neurosurgeons and offers faster recovery, reduced risk of infection and fewer side effects. One minimally invasive procedure our neurosurgeons use is laser interstitial thermal therapy (LITT). In this procedure, a laser is guided using intraoperative MRI and heats up the specifically targeted area of the brain to destroy the affected tissue.
Proton therapy is a type of radiation therapy that permits more precise control of radiation delivery, sparing healthy tissue. It uses a pencil-thin beam of protons to deliver radiation directly to the tumor.
Radiation therapy destroys tumor cells while preserving the surrounding healthy tissue. It uses high doses of radiation to target the tumor. The radiation used in this treatment is a stronger dose of the radiation used to produce X-rays of bones and teeth. There are several kinds of radiation therapy, including the specific types listed above.
Stereotactic radiosurgery applies radiation precisely to tumor cells, in contrast to general radiation of the whole brain. This collaboration between neurosurgical and radiation oncology teams increases accuracy and provides greater effectiveness with fewer side effects.
Find a doctor
Doctors at The University of Kansas Health System are care providers and researchers at the forefront of new medical discoveries. From primary care to complex conditions, we offer hundreds of specialists.
Why choose us for brain tumor treatment
- The University of Kansas Health System offers interdisciplinary, collaborative care to provide complete care options. This helps achieve maximum tumor removal for the best tumor control and highest survival rates. Our subspecialty-trained doctors bring unparalleled experience to your care.
- Our multidisciplinary brain tumor care team offers appointments for patients who are seeking more information about or a second opinion of a brain tumor diagnosis. This care team includes a neurosurgeon and a neuro-oncologist who will meet with the patient to discuss a customized care plan. Prior to the appointment, a radiologist will review the patient’s images. Second opinion and follow-up appointments can be scheduled in person, via telehealth or a combination.
- Our patients are fortunate that our brain tumor care team is one of the few in the Kansas City metro area that includes a neuropathologist and a neuropsychologist. Neuropathologists play a unique role in tumor care, analyzing brain tissue samples to evaluate the complicated distinctions among tumor cells. Neuropsychologists help the brain tumor team protect as much brain function as possible.
- Our dedicated brain tumor nurse navigator is here to help you every step of the way as you navigate your journey before, during and after treatment. This single point of entry allows for the most efficient and prompt care so you can focus on your health.
- Those people with cancerous brain tumors benefit from the expertise offered at The University of Kansas Cancer Center, 1 of fewer than 60 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers nationwide. This designation means people with brain tumors may also have access to leading-edge clinical research trials.
- We apply state-of-the-art neuro-navigation technologies to effectively map brain surgeries, including the region’s only intraoperative MRI and one of the few 3D printers maintained on site. We also offer support groups for patients and families managing their lives with or following complex neurological conditions. Our partners at Turning Point offer classes and programs for patients and families. We also have our own support group hosted by our subspecialist physicians. Find a calendar of events here.