Brain and Spine Cancer Treatment

Specialized expertise for treating complex cancers.

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Brain and spine cancer specialists reviewing x-ray to developing a custom treatment plan

Your treatment for brain or spine cancer begins with your doctor recommending a customized plan based on expert guidelines, called protocols. Your treatment is determined by:

  • The type of tumor
  • The location of the tumor
  • The extent of the disease, called the stage
  • Any tests you have had during diagnosis
  • A discussion about what is right for you

Other factors include your age, overall health, and the side effects you’ll find acceptable.

You may have questions and concerns about your treatment choices. You may want to know how you’ll feel and function after treatment, and if you’ll have to change your normal activities. Your healthcare provider is the best person to answer your questions. They can tell you what your treatment choices are, what the goals of these treatments will be, how successful they’re expected to be, what treatment will be like, and what the risks and possible side effects are.

Understanding the goals of treatment for brain or spine tumors

Treatment for a brain or spinal cord tumor is different for everyone. It depends on the type of tumor, where it is, how fast it's growing, the problems it's causing, and your overall health. The goal of treatment may be to cure you, control the cancer, or help ease problems caused by the tumor. Talk with your healthcare team about your treatment choices, the goals of treatment, and what the risks and side effects may be. 

Brain and spine cancer treatment options

There are several types of treatment for brain and spinal cord cancer, and many people undergo a combination of treatments.

  • Surgery seeks to remove the tumor without damaging healthy areas within the brain and spine. In some cases, the surgery is part of diagnosing the cancer. In some people, the surgeon cannot remove the entire tumor because it is too near vital parts of the brain or spine. In those cases, chemotherapy and radiation is used to shrink the remaining tumor.

    Legacy has a variety of advanced technologies to help perform complex brain and spinal cord procedures. The technologies give our surgeons the ability to see details not often visible through other means. We also perform the surgery with smaller incisions than conventional surgery; potential benefits are faster recovery and reduced complications. 
  • Radiation uses X-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation is sometimes the only treatment for brain and spinal cord tumors because of the location of the tumor. Radiation can be used together with chemotherapy or surgery.

    Legacy Cancer Institute also has an experienced Gamma Knife radiosurgery team for the treatment of certain brain tumors. Learn more about Gamma Knife.
  • Chemotherapy uses drugs that kill cancer cells. For brain and spinal cord cancer, chemotherapy may be used before or after surgery and often with radiation. Or it may be the main treatment for people who can't have surgery. 
  • Immunotherapy uses the body’s own immune system to treat cancer (also called biologic therapy). 

Talk to your doctor about these and other options for treating brain and spinal cord cancer. Researchers are discovering new therapies for treating cancer all the time, giving doctors new resources for your care.

Brain and spine cancer experts

Legacy Cancer Institute, located in Portland, OR, ranks among the nation’s best cancer programs. We have a team of brain and spine cancer specialists who work together to diagnose and develop a personalized treatment plan for you. Find the right provider and treatment close to home.

Legacy Cancer Institute is accredited as an integrated network cancer program by the American College of surgeons Commission on Cancer (CoC). Learn more about our quality cancer care.

Working together for you

Our cancer experts work together with a common goal: delivering the right care for you.

A range of specialists collaborate regularly in meetings called tumor boards to discuss the best plan for your care. Your treatment plan is made just for you, depending on your general health, your age, your particular cancer and its growth.

Legacy Health collaborates with the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute to advance cancer care in our region. By working together, you benefit from the strength of both leaders in cancer care. As an integrated community cancer program for adults, we make sure that you have access to the latest treatments, technology and research available. 

What happens next 

Many cancer treatments can cause challenging side effects. Your cancer team is dedicated to helping you manage these side effects in the best ways possible.

To see how well your treatment is working, some of the tests used to diagnose and stage your cancer may be repeated. Your doctor uses these tests to decide whether to stop, change or continue treatment based on the results. The tests can also determine if cancer has returned.

Whenever possible, we work to stop cancer. But when we can’t, we can often control it for a better quality of life, often called palliative care.

Care for children 

Brain and spinal cord cancers are the second most common type of childhood cancers. Medical advances mean more children with cancer are saved each year. Our team of experts at Randall Children's Hospital at Legacy Emanuel work together to provide the latest treatment options for children with brain cancer.  

Learn more about treatment of childhood cancers

More support 

You are not alone. Legacy offers support throughout your cancer journey, as well as care for your emotional, social and spiritual needs.