Treatment Options for Brain and Central Nervous System Tumors

At the OHSU Brain Institute, our experts provide the most advanced care for brain and central nervous system tumors. Because you are different from everyone else, we create a customized treatment plan for you.

Your doctor will decide on the best treatment for you based on:

  • Your age, general health and medical history
  • Type of tumor you have, its size and where it is located in the brain
  • Whether the tumor has spread and how much
  • How well certain medications, procedures or other treatments will work for you
  • How your doctor expects your condition to change over time
  • Your opinion or preference

There are many treatment options for brain tumors. You might have surgery, chemotherapy or radiation by itself or combined with other treatments.

Surgery is usually the first step in brain tumor treatment. Your doctor removes as much of the tumor as possible without damaging brain function. You might have a biopsy (sample of tissue) taken before the tumor is removed. This lets our specialists look at tumor cells under a microscope, which can help them tell what type of tumor it is.

If the tumor is near sensitive brain structures that could be damaged by surgery, you might have a biopsy, but not have the whole tumor removed.

Other brain tumor treatments include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Stereotactic radiosurgery - a type of radiation therapy that sends high doses of radiation to the tumor from many different angles. This type of radiation is very precise and avoids healthy tissue near the tumor.
  • Steroid medication to prevent swelling, especially in the brain
  • Anti-seizure medication to treat and prevent seizures from increased pressure in the skull
  • Ventriculoperitoneal shunt (VP shunt) – a tube to drain fluid from the brain
  • Supportive care (care for any side effects of your tumor treatment)
  • Rehabilitation
  • Antibiotics
  • Follow-up care (appointments after your main treatment to manage disease and side effects and watch for tumor recurrence (return)

Advanced treatments at the OHSU Brain Institute include:

  • Gene therapy -- a gene is added to a virus that is injected into the brain tumor. You take an antivirus drug to kill the cancer cells that have been infected with the injected virus.
  • Chemotherapy wafers -- small pieces of material containing a cancer-killing drug, BCNU, are placed in the tumor area during surgery.

Are you looking for information about pediatric brain tumors?