At Intermountain Cancer Centers, a multidisciplinary approach is taken to diagnosing and treating brain and spinal cord cancers. This involves a specialized tumor conference held bimonthly wherein neurosurgeons, neuro-oncologists, radiation and medical oncologists, and others meet to plan the best treatment course for these complicated tumors.

Treatment often requires all three of the major cancer treatment modalities—surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Board certified neurosurgeons and cancer specialists participate in clinical trials and utilize national guidelines to plan treatment. The goal of brain and spinal cord cancer surgery is to remove as much as the tumor as is safe without affecting normal function.

Treatments and Procedures

To treat brain tumors, craniotomy—a surgical opening made in the skull—is the most common surgical approach. The surgeon either uses MRI or CT scans prior to the surgery along with CT scans and ultrasounds during surgery to visualize and locate tumors deep in the brain. Some soft tumors can be resected using sensitive suction devices. Hard tumors involve a scalpel or scissors to cut and remove it, or a probe attached to an ultrasonic generator that can break up and liquefy the tumor.

Spine surgery is also an intricate procedure, in which neurosurgeons remove as much of the tumor as possible while avoiding injury to the spinal cord and other major nerves.

The goal of spine cancer treatment depends on the location and size of the tumor as well as symptoms, and surgery can be used to completely remove the cancer or to relieve symptoms. Advanced minimally invasive and open surgery techniques are used, and can be followed with radiation therapy for improved patient outcomes.