Brain Cancer Treatment
At Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute, we know that receiving a brain cancer diagnosis is devastating. Our compassionate, dedicated team of neuro-oncology (brain cancer) experts is by your side, fighting this disease to increase your longevity. Our robust support services, including support groups and palliative care, will give you the best quality of life while you receive treatment.
Expert brain cancer treatment at Allegheny Health Network
At the Cancer Institute, we use the latest techniques and technology to provide a comprehensive and aggressive treatment plan for the specific type of brain cancer you have. We work to destroy the cancer so you may continue to lead a full life. Here’s what you can expect:
- Advanced technology: We use the most sophisticated tools to treat brain cancer. Many of our treatment options are minimally invasive and allow you to remain comfortable and live a full life during treatment.
- A customized strategy: We use ChemoID®**, a diagnostic assessment that allows us to determine the effectiveness of different chemotherapy drugs against individual cancer cells. You won’t waste time or energy taking medications that will not improve your health. We are one of the only centers in the region using genome analysis to see how the DNA of the cancer cells is changing during treatment. This information allows us to change the course of care, if necessary, to be more effective.
- Integrated, collaborative care: We have teams of brain cancer specialists from every discipline – including medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, surgeons, radiologists, and technologists. They meet regularly to review your case, select the most effective, evidence-based course of care, determine if you are eligible for clinical trials, and arrange follow-up care for you. Our surgeons are some of the most experienced in the country, leaders in their field who have helped advance treatments through their research and use of sophisticated techniques.
- Leading-edge care: We are the only team in Pennsylvania that treats paraneoplastic syndrome, a rare disorder that can occur in some people who have cancer.
- A convenient, after hours clinic: If you are experiencing worsening symptoms or any side effects from treatment, call your physician’s office first. Then visit our after hours clinic, the first of its kind in Pennsylvania, conveniently located at West Penn Hospital. Instead of waiting for hours in an emergency room, our knowledgeable cancer specialists treat you right away. Plus, our clinic is more affordable than a visit to the ER. And since our oncology specialists have access to your records, they may even be able to advise you over the phone and save you from making a trip. Learn more about our After Hours Oncology Clinic.
Treatment options for brain cancer
At the Cancer Institute, we develop a comprehensive and customized treatment plan to meet the individual needs of each patient. Treating brain cancer usually requires a combination of different modalities including surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and clinical trials.
The first step in brain cancer treatment is for the neurosurgeon to remove as much of the tumor as is safe without affecting normal brain function. We always aim for the most minimally invasive surgical procedure possible.
This noninvasive, FDA-approved therapy slows the growth of brain cancer cells without harming the surrounding healthy tissue. The physician places electrodes on the scalp, connected to a portable electric field generator that delivers low-intensity electric fields, targeted directly at the tumor.
The device must be used for 18 hours per day to see the best results. You can put the generator in a small bag or backpack and use it while you go about your normal activities.
Laser interstitial thermal therapy (LITT)
This procedure results in less pain and a faster recovery compared to traditional surgery.
- We give you general anesthesia so you won’t feel any pain.
- The neurosurgeon uses a specialized drill to make a tiny hole in the skull near the tumor.
- With MRI guidance, the surgeon maneuvers a laser wire toward the cancerous area in the brain.
- The wire destroys the tumor cells using thermal heat.
- The surgeon then removes the wire and closes up the small open area with stitches.
This chemotherapy drug is commonly used to stop or slow cell growth in certain types of brain tumors. It breaks DNA strands inside tumor cells, which slows or prevents their growth. You may experience side effects, such as constipation, nausea, and fatigue. Our team works with you to minimize side effects, while maximizing the effectiveness of the drug.
Advanced radiation therapies
We use advanced technologies to target the radiation beam directly to a tumor. This approach minimizes overall exposure and results in a more precise treatment and less harm to healthy tissue. The Cancer Institute is the only radiation oncology network accredited in western Pennsylvania by both the American Society for Radiation Oncology and American College of Radiology. These accreditations mean that our facilities meet specific guidelines for patient safety, quality control, and equipment performance.
Our radiation therapies all use advanced imaging to optimize the radiation dose and precisely target radiation beams to the tumor. Types of radiation therapies include:
- Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
- Volumetric arc radiotherapy (VMAT)
- 3-D conformal external-beam radiation therapy (3DCRT)
We also pioneered an advanced radiation therapy technique here at AHN, called stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS). It has dramatically improved our ability to control the growth of tumors. This method delivers high, effective doses of radiation in as few as five treatments.
You have access to a variety of promising clinical trials right here. Clinical trials are studies designed to test the newest approaches to care. You may not have to travel for additional treatment options. Learn more about our clinical trials program.
Rehabilitation after brain cancer treatment
We offer a wide range of rehabilitation options that will help you lead an active, full life after brain cancer treatment. Visit one of our 10 convenient locations. You can also request a home visit from a rehabilitation therapist through our Healthcare@Home service. Learn more about our rehabilitation program. Our services include:
- Weekly support group
- Occupational therapy
- Physical therapy
- Speech and language therapy
- Pain management