Brain Tumors, Skull and Spinal Cord Tumors

Nationally Recognized Experts in the Treatment of Benign and Malignant Tumors

Loyola Medicine’s specialists are nationally known for their expertise in treating brain, skull and spinal cord tumors, which are abnormal masses of cells that may be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). If you are diagnosed with one of these tumors, we understand how concerned you and your family may be. Loyola is committed to your compassionate care, from diagnosis to treatment and beyond.

Your multidisciplinary team may include neurosurgeons, neurologists, otolaryngologists, neuro-oncologists, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists and neuroradiologists. Loyola neurosurgeons employ the latest technology, which allows them to deliver care that best preserves your quality of life. In fact, Loyola was among the first centers in the United States to adopt computerized surgical navigation systems to better target tumor treatments.

Why Choose Loyola for the Treatment of Brain, Skull and Spinal Cord Tumors?

Loyola’s compassionate team understands that brain, skill and spinal cord tumors can be life-changing not only for the patient, but also for family members. Loyola is ranked as a high-performing neurosurgical center on U.S. News & World Report’s 2015-16 Best Hospitals list.  

Through Loyola’s unique neuro-oncology program, patients with brain, skull, spine and head and neck cancers can benefit from consultation with several specialists in a convenient, multidisciplinary clinic held in Loyola’s Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center.

Loyola’s renowned Center for Cranial Base Surgery treats patients with tumors at the undersurface of the brain. It is an area that borders on the brain, ears, eyes, nose, throat and neck. Neurosurgeons, otolaryngologists and other specialists each bring their unique expertise to treat these tumors, which often surround the nerves and blood vessels traveling to or from the underside of the brain. The center has developed innovative methods for removing difficult-to-reach tumors that may otherwise have been inoperable.

Our neuro intensive care unit and Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center are staffed by compassionate certified technologists and highly experienced nurses, who have earned Magnet status.

What are Brain, Skull and Spinal Cord Tumors?

All cranial base, spine and brain tumors are considered serious whether they are benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Malignant tumors of the brain and spine are treated by oncologists who specialize in brain and spine cancer.

Benign tumors normally are slow growing. They are usually self-contained and will not spread to surrounding tissue. However, pressure from growing tumors can damage nearby structures and may be life-threatening. Your team will provide an integrated approach to treat your tumor. 

Our team is highly experienced in treating a variety of benign brain, skull and spinal cord tumors, including:

  • Acoustic neuroma
  • Angiofibroma
  • Astrocytoma (which are malignant only in rare cases)
  • Choroid plexus papilloma
  • Craniopharyngioma
  • Ependymoma
  • Epidermoid and dermoid cyst
  • Glioma
  • Glomus vagale tumor
  • Glomus jugulare
  • Hemangioblastoma
  • Intradural-extramedullary tumor (usually benign)
  • Intramedullary tumor (usually benign)
  • Jugular foramen schwannoma
  • Meningioma
  • Neurofibroma
  • Neuroma
  • Pineal tumor
  • Pituitary adenoma
  • Trigeminal schwannoma
  • Vagal schwannoma

How are Brain, Skull and Spinal Cord Tumors Diagnosed?

Symptoms of benign (noncancerous) brain, skull and spinal cord tumors depend on the type of tumor you may have, and may include:

  • Balance problems
  • Change in sense of smell
  • Concentration problems
  • Difficulty with speech
  • Facial paralysis
  • Headaches
  • Hearing loss
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Memory lapses
  • Muscle spasms
  • Nausea
  • Numbness in hands or feet
  • Seizures
  • Vision problems, such as double vision
  • Vomiting​

If you are experiencing symptoms that could indicate the possibility of a benign tumor, your doctor will take a detailed medical and personal history and conduct a physical exam. Your doctor also may order one or more of the following tests:

  • Blood tests
  • Brain, skull or spinal cord tumor biopsy
  • Chest X-ray
  • CT scan (computed tomography)
  • Functional MRI (fMRI)
  • Lumbar puncture (spinal tap)
  • Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA)
  • Magnetic resonance perfusion
  • Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS)
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • PET scan (positron emission tomography)​

How are Brain, Skull and Spinal Cord Tumors Treated?

Loyola’s neurosurgeons are highly skilled in treating brain, skull and spinal cord tumors and have experience with the latest technology, such as computerized surgical navigation systems. Your treatment will depend on the type of benign (noncancerous) tumor you have, and may include radiation therapy, surgery and medications such as corticosteroids to reduce swelling. 

If radiation therapy is part of your treatment plan, you may benefit from Loyola’s neurosurgeons’ collaboration with radiation oncologists as part of our leading-edge stereotactic radiosurgery program. Stereotactic radiosurgery is effective in treating small tumors of the head and brain when conventional surgery or standard radiation therapy may pose too great a risk to the patient.

The procedure delivers a single dose of radiation therapy that is precisely matched to the 3D shape of the tumor, while protecting nearby brain structures. Loyola employs a shaped-beam stereotactic radiotherapy system, which targets tumors and other lesions with submillimeter accuracy. Learn more about stereotactic radiosurgery.

Minimally invasive surgery is also an option for some types of tumors. This approach helps patients to recover faster and with less pain. Loyola’s renowned Center for Cranial Base Surgery brings together neurosurgeons, otolaryngologists and other specialists to treat these tumors.  Learn more about Loyola’s Center for Cranial Base Surgery.

Tumor Growth Research to Improve Future Treatments

As an academic medical center, Loyola’s patients benefit from our research discoveries. In Loyola’s neuro-oncology laboratory, our scientists study how tumors grow in order to develop new treatments. One major avenue of research is the role of calcium ions in the life cycle of brain tumor cells. This research may shed light on the potential use of calcium-blocking drugs to eradicate tumors. Learn more about our research and clinical trials.