Malignant Brain Tumors (Brain Cancer)

If you have been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor (brain cancer), our world-class cancer experts and supportive resources will help you navigate every aspect of your care.

The team of neurology and cancer specialists at Allegheny Health Network (AHN) successfully guides hundreds of patients through cancer diagnosis and treatment every year. We work with you to develop a plan that offers you the best chance of success, and we will stay by your side throughout your treatment and recovery.

Types of malignant brain tumors we treat

We treat both types of malignant brain tumors:

Patients who undergo complex intracranial surgery instead of traditional brain surgery can benefit in multiple ways, with:

  • Primary brain tumors: Cancer cells first grow inside the brain and develop into a tumor.
  • Metastatic brain tumors: Cancer cells form in another part of the body (such as the lungs) and then spread to the brain.

At AHN, we are skilled in diagnosing and treating both primary and metastatic brain tumors, including:

  • Acoustic Neuroma
  • Astrocytoma
  • Ependymoma
  • Esthesioneuroblastoma
  • Germinoma
  • Gliosarcoma
  • Glioblastoma multiforme
  • Lymphoma
  • Meningioma
  • Metastatic brain tumor from lung, prostate, and other cancers
  • Mixed-malignant glioma
  • Oligodendroglioma

Brain cancer symptoms

Brain tumor symptoms depend mainly on the type, size, and location of the tumor. Someone with a brain tumor (either benign or malignant) may experience one or more of these symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Changes in vision, smell, and hearing
  • Personality or memory changes
  • Motor and balance problems
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue

Diagnosing brain cancer

We understand the stress that distressing symptoms and uncertainty can cause. At AHN, we schedule your appointment as quickly as possible. Because our care teams include physicians with different backgrounds, you may see a neurosurgeon as well as a neuro-oncologist (cancer specialist).

After performing a thorough physical examination to evaluate your symptoms, your physician may recommend:

  • Neurocognitive assessment: This detailed evaluation of the brain’s major functions can help physicians identify or monitor symptoms related to language abilities, dexterity, and your well-being.
  • Imaging studies (CT, MRI, or PET scans): Advanced imaging of the brain can confirm the presence of a tumor and give physicians details about its size and location.
  • Lumbar puncture: This procedure, also called a spinal tap, can confirm the presence of cancer cells in the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. After numbing your back with a local anesthetic, a physician uses a needle to take a sample of this fluid for further analysis.
  • Biopsy: A biopsy provides a definitive diagnosis. A physician removes a small amount of tissue for further examination under a microscope. We may perform the biopsy as part of surgery to remove the tumor. Or, we may do a biopsy as a separate procedure if we determine the tumor cannot be removed surgically.
  • Molecular testing: After a biopsy, we take a small amount of tumor tissue for molecular testing. This test can identify specific genes or markers that are unique to the tumor. Results of these tests may help determine your treatment options.

Get comprehensive brain cancer treatment at AHN

AHN’s physicians from different medical specialties work together to develop an accurate diagnosis and a treatment plan that is personalized to your needs. See why so many people choose AHN for neuro-oncology care.

Cancer specialists at AHN Neuroscience Institute and AHN Cancer Institute help hundreds of patients beat cancer every year. Our care team considers your age, overall health, and other factors when determining which treatments will benefit you.

Your treatment plan may include:

  • Radiation therapy: With advanced computer software and imaging technology, our radiation oncologists administer high-dose radiation beams directly to a tumor, while protecting surrounding healthy tissue. We have the country’s largest – and western Pennsylvania’s only – radiation oncology network, accredited by top radiation oncology accrediting organizations.
  • Medical oncology: Chemotherapy uses medicines to kill cancer cells through an IV or port (a catheter that delivers medicine under the skin). 
  • We also offer a range of advanced therapies: Targeted therapy medications attack certain types of cancer cells, stopping the tumor’s growth. Immunotherapy uses the body’s natural defense system, the immune system, to destroy cancer cells.
  • Surgery: Our neurosurgeons remove brain tumor tissue while protecting surrounding healthy tissue, so you retain more of your abilities after surgery. We use minimally invasive techniques to perform safe, effective surgeries. These intricate procedures enable surgeons to remove more of the tumor while resulting in a shorter hospital stay and recovery for patients. Learn more about our approaches to traditional brain surgery and minimally invasive brain surgery.

Contact us

To schedule an appointment or learn more about AHN neuroscience services, call (412) 359-6200 in Pittsburgh or (814) 452-7575 in Erie.

If you're an existing patient, you can also call (412) DOCTORS (412) 362-8677 in Pittsburgh or request an appointment with AHN neuroscience services.