Brain and Spine Tumors

When you come to Premier Health for neuro-oncology care, you get access to advanced, comprehensive treatment for brain and spinal tumors. Our nationally recognized program provides evaluation, diagnosis, surgical and non-surgical treatments for malignant (cancerous) and benign (non-cancerous) brain and spine conditions. These include:

We use a personalized, team approach that means you experience up-to-date, evidence-based neuro-oncology care. The spirit of collaboration is at the heart of Premier Health’s care philosophy. Our team includes the expertise of the Neuroscience Institute at Wright State University.

Our program is staffed by experienced, board-certified, and fellowship-trained doctors who provide high quality care to every patient, which includes sophisticated tests to study your tumor and create a personalized treatment plan to remove and prevent tumor cells from growing. Ania Pollack, MD, is medical director of our neuro-oncology program. She is a fellowship-trained neurosurgeon specializing in skull base neurosurgery and neuro-oncology.

Your care team includes:

  • Neuro-oncology surgeon
  • Neurologists
  • Neuroradiologists
  • Neuropsychologist

Additional collaborative care is provided by:

  • Medical oncologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Pathologists
  • Pharmacists
  • Ophthalmologists
  • Head and neck surgeons
  • Plastic and reconstructive surgeons
  • Nurse navigators
  • Social workers
  • Rehabilitation specialists
  • Palliative care specialists
  • Nutritionists
  • Clinical trials specialists

In addition, our support team of physician assistants, advanced practice nurses, and registered nurses is an integral part of team-based care. They work in concert with our physicians to improve efficiencies and patient access and to ensure timely, relevant, quality care.

We coordinate your care across all Premier Health facilities, throughout diagnosis and treatment. Our inpatient and outpatient services, procedures, and programs focus on the continuity of care and improved patient outcomes — for your body, mind and spirit.

Brain and spinal tumors are abnormal growths in or around the spinal column and brain. They can destroy healthy cells or inhibit normal function. The cause of most brain and spinal tumors is unknown.

Our neuro-oncology specialists conduct many different tests to diagnose and evaluate brain and spinal cord conditions. Your doctor will complete a thorough physical exam and talk with you about your symptoms and your medical history.

Symptoms Of Brain And Spine Tumors

Brain and spinal tumors can begin in the brain and spine, or they can spread to the brain and spine from other cancers in other parts of the body. Symptoms depend on the location and type of tumor.

Brain tumors impact normal brain activity, increase pressure in the brain, and damage nerves and healthy tissue. Symptoms can include:

  • Blood clots
  • Changes in behavior or thinking
  • Changes in hormone levels
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Hearing or vision loss
  • Speech problems
  • Loss of touch
  • Difficulty walking or balance
  • Loss of movement control
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Speech problems
  • Seizures

Spine tumors can form in the spinal cord, nerves, or membranes of the spinal cord. Symptoms may include:

  • Cold sensations in your legs, knee, ankle, hands, or fingers
  • Muscle weakness, especially in your legs
  • Loss of touch
  • Difficulty walking or balance
  • Loss of movement control
  • Pain in the middle or lower back that does not improve with pain medication and is worse when you lie down, cough or sneeze

Diagnosing Brain And Spine Tumors

To determine the type, location, shape, and size of a tumor, your specialist may order a variety of diagnostic tests, including clinical tests and advanced neuroimaging. Tests to diagnose and locate a brain or spinal tumor may include:

  • CT (computed tomography). X-rays and computer technology combine to form a picture of the brain.
  • CT myelography. Takes images of the spine for tumors.
  • CT angiography (CTA). Provides better details of the blood vessels in and around a tumor.
  • MR angiography (MRA). A special type of MRI that looks at the blood vessels in the brain.
  • MRI spectroscopy. This imaging test measures biochemical changes in an area of the brain, displayed in graph-like results called spectra. The type of tumor, or how quickly it is likely to grow, can sometimes be identified.
  • fMRI (functional MRI). This type of MRI determines what part of the brain handles a function, such as speech, thought, sensation, or movement. 
  • MRI perfusion. An MRI that shows the amount of blood going through different parts of the brain and tumor. Tumors often have a bigger blood supply than normal areas of the brain.
  • MRI diffusion tensor – tracktography. Images created by MRI and diffusion MRI measure the rate of water diffusion between cells to create a map of the body’s internal structures. The images combine to form 2D and 3D pictures called tractograms.
  • PET (positron emission tomography)/CT. A type of nuclear medicine imaging that uses small amounts of radioactive material to diagnose and evaluate a tumor. The nuclear medicine images are superimposed with the CT images, allowing the doctor to correlate and interpret information from two different exams on one image for more precise diagnosis.

Tests to diagnose and locate a spinal tumor include:

  • Lumbar puncture. A thin needle inserted into the space around the spinal column removes a sample of cerebrospinal fluid to measure the red and white blood cell count and check for signs of cancer.
  • CT (computed tomography)
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • Spine X-ray

The neurosurgeons, neurologists, radiation oncologists and other professionals on your care team will review your test results and use them to recommend the best treatment options for you.

Types Of Brain And Spine Tumors

There are benign tumors and malignant tumors. Benign tumors are non-cancerous and develop slowly. Malignant tumors are fast growing, cancerous tumors that can spread to other parts of the body.

Primary brain tumors begin in the brain and usually do not spread to other parts of the body. They do often spread to other parts of the brain. Glioblastoma is the most common primary brain tumor in adults.

Secondary brain tumors are malignant tumors that spread from other parts of the body, such as lung cancer that is found in the brain.

Types of brain and spine tumors include:

  • Gliomas. This is the most common type of brain tumor. Gliomas form in the supportive glial cells. Some types of gliomas are fast-growing; others grow slowly. Gliomas include:
    • Astrocytoma. A tumor that forms in the star-shaped cells called astrocytes. Astrocytomas often spread into healthy tissue.
    • Oligodendroglioma. These tumors form in the cells that make the white protective shield that surrounds nerves (myelin) and often spread into nearby brain tissue.
    • Ependymomas. These tumors form in the lining of the fluid-filled spaces (ventricles) of the brain. Ependymomas do not usually spread.
    • Mixed gliomas. These tumors include more than one type of glial cell, such as astrocytes and oligodendrocytes.
    • Ganglioglioma. This is a rare tumor that forms in the brain or spine. It forms from glial and nerve cells.
    • Glioblastoma. Also called a GBM (glioblastoma multiforme), this is the most common form of brain tumor in adults. Glioblastomas are fast growing and often spread into nearby tissue.
  • Meningiomas. A type of brain tumor that starts in the outer lining of the brain.
  • Medulloblastoma. A brain tumor that forms in the back of the brain (cerebellum) that controls balance and coordination.
  • Schwannomas. A tumor that forms in the myelin-making cells that surround the nerves. It occurs most often in the vestibular nerve of the inner ear.
  • Craniopharyngioma. This non-cancerous brain tumor forms near the pituitary gland.
  • Pituitary tumors. Tumors can form in the pituitary gland, at the base of the skull. Most pituitary tumors are benign but they can press on optic nerve and cause vision problems. Pituitary tumors can also cause higher or lower levels of hormone production.
  • Chordomas. A rare type of bone cancer that forms at the base of the skull and can affect nerves that control the face, eyes and swallowing.
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Cancer that forms in the lymphatic system and can form tumors in the brain and spine.

Our neuro-oncology program takes a team approach to your care for compassionate, coordinated treatment options and optimal results. The type of treatment you receive for your brain or spinal tumor depends on the type of tumor and its location, size, and growth. Your treatment plan may include a combination of therapies and surgery.

Our multispecialty tumor board – which includes neurosurgeons, neuroradiologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and pathologists – meets weekly to present patient medical cases for review. Individualized care plans are created to treat the whole person: mind, body, and spirit.

Your care team will talk with you about each treatment option and how it will affect your life.


If your brain or spinal tumor requires removal, our neuro-oncology specialists use advanced planning and minimally invasive techniques whenever possible. Some brain tumors may require opening the skull for direct access to the brain. Our neurosurgeons are highly experienced, with fellowship training in skull base surgery and neuro-oncology techniques.

Brain Mapping Center

Our neurosurgeons and neuro-oncologists use the expertise of the Midwest’s first brain mapping center to create a highly individualized plan for your surgery. Brain mapping involves a series of highly specialized procedures that show how specific parts and networks of the brain are functioning. This enables your neurosurgery/neuro-oncology team to provide greater precision and a delicate surgical approach, ensuring that no vital areas of the brain are harmed. With brain mapping, your doctor can predict with extreme accuracy your long-term outcomes.

Surgical treatments may include:

  • Awake craniotomy.  If a brain tumor sits near an area that controls an essential function like language, this procedure may be performed to prevent damage.
  • Minimally-invasive techniques or procedures. Techniques such as endoscopic surgery decrease incision size, increase precision, and may reduce recovery time.
  • Visualase™ MRI-guided laser ablation. Visualase provides a newer, minimally invasive surgical technique, enabling surgeons to target and treat seizure-causing areas of the brain with precision.
  • Neuro-navigation (GPS). A real-time, intra-operative guidance tool used during cranial and/or spinal surgery to enable accurate planning, targeting, and monitoring during neurosurgery.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses beams of intense energy to destroy cancer cells. The board-certified specialists at Premier Health use the TrueBeam® Radiotherapy System to target tumors with a precise beam of radiation that does not damage nearby healthy cells. The TrueBeam system is an advanced medical linear accelerator that works with image-guided radiotherapy and radiosurgery. TrueBeam lets our doctors perform non-invasive radiation treatments accurately, quickly, and effectively. Learn more about TrueBeam in this video.

Medical Management

  • Chemotherapy and biological therapy. We provide different types of chemotherapy to attack brain cancer cells and biological therapies to work with your immune system to fight tumor growth. 
  • Optune™ treatment for glioblastoma. The Optune™ medical device treats newly diagnosed and recurrent glioblastoma with painless electrical impulses that stop the division of cancer cells and slow tumor growth. Arrays are placed on the scalp in a formation that matches the size and location of your tumor. You can cover the arrays with a hat, scarf, or wig, but must wear them for at least 18 hours a day. Optune lets you receive cancer treatments during your normal activities. It also can be used with other cancer treatments.
  • Clinical trials. You may be able to receive new or experimental treatments by joining a clinical trial. Your doctor will talk with you about whether a clinical trial is a treatment option for you. The Premier Health and Wright State University Neuroscience Institute participates in cancer clinical trials through the Dayton Clinical Oncology Program and the Clinical Trials Research Alliance. Our patients have access to more than 100 national clinical trials. 
  • Rehabilitation. Our oncology rehabilitation programs teaches you how to maintain your strength, tackle fatigue and reduce pain.
  • Palliative care. Our specialists provide comfort care with treatments to reduce symptoms and pain so you can live more fully.

Our neuro-oncology patients receive collaborative care from a wide range of specialists. Every member of the neuro-oncology team works together with the neurologists and neuro-oncologists to ensure optimal patient access and timely, relevant, quality care across all Premier Health facilities.

Support For Patients And Families

At Premier Health, we surround you and your family with support. Managing a brain or spine tumor can be overwhelming. We provide services to help you live your best life, including:

  • Social workers and cancer care coordinators to help you and your family manage your care and other services you may need.
  • Spiritual care to provide support from a chaplain to you and your family whenever you need it.
  • Wellness Center programs to address mental, physical, and spiritual needs at any time during your cancer journey.
  • Community education. Premier Health’s doctors, nurses, and staff spend time helping our communities learn more about brain and spine health. Our teams make frequent presentations and work with area media to share our experience. Media stories provide valuable information you can use.

Fidelity Health Care

Fidelity Health Care provides personalized, in-home care if you are recovering from brain and spine surgery or other neurological condition. Fidelity is part of Premier Health.

  • For patients with brain or spine tumors. You can receive in-home chemotherapy, nutritional assessment, symptom management, and pain control. Our care providers also connect you with community resources and spiritual and emotional support. Our wound-care program provides advanced technology to improve the quality and speed of healing.
  • The Advanced Illness Management program focuses on enhancing your quality of life.
  • Medical and occupational equipment. You can purchase any equipment and devices you need to live independently, including walking aids, wheelchairs, hospital beds, occupational therapy items, a reacher, or dressing stick.
  • Independent care services. Fidelity will assist you with companion services, bathing, meal preparation, and housekeeping to support you, your caregivers, and your family.

Contact Us

Our specialists are ready to help you get back to the things that matter most in your life. Find a provider near you or consult our list of related practices.

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