At Central Maine Healthcare we understand that a brain or spinal tumor diagnosis can be alarming. That’s why we offer the services of the cancer care team at Central Maine Comprehensive Cancer Center, an exceptionally skilled neurological oncology group to design your treatment plan and give you the best possible care, including the most effective approaches to combatting these diseases.
Brain and Spinal Tumors
A tumor is a mass of abnormal cells. These can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). With most cancers, benign tumors are much less of a concern than malignant ones. Benign tumors in the brain or spine are riskier to remove, and as they grow they may begin to press on and damage normal brain tissue or spinal nerves.
Prognosis will depend on your age, the type of tumor, and its location, not by how early it is discovered. As with any disease, early detection and treatment is likely to be helpful.
Thanks to the blood-brain barrier, our bodies protect our brains from toxins that may affect other areas, so unlike many cancers, lifestyle choices like diet and exercise appear to have little impact on prevention of brain or spinal tumors. If you’ve been exposed to radiation, this may increase your chances of contracting the disease. According to the American Cancer Society, there is no known way to protect against these tumors. The good news is that they are not common.
Detection and Diagnosis
Brain tumors are often discovered when a patient begins to have headaches, seizures or other symptoms of pressure inside the skull (also known as intracranial pressure). It’s important to note however that the majority of headaches and seizures are not caused by a brain tumor.
If you have a spinal cord tumor, symptoms may include numbness, weakness, or lack of coordination in the arms and/or legs (usually on both sides of the body), as well as bladder or bowel problems. Again, these symptoms don’t mean you have spinal cancer but if you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor promptly.
The process for detecting brain or spinal cancer starts with your doctor getting your medical history and completing a physical exam. If she discovers anything abnormal, she may refer you to a neurologist or neurosurgeon who will do a more detailed neurologic exam or other tests, which may include imaging tests like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) scan, positron emission tomography (PET) scan, or x-ray. These tests may show an abnormality but often they can’t tell the type of tumor. To make this determination, the doctor may recommend a biopsy, which involves removing a bit of the tumor to further test it.
CMH is committed to providing compassionate, high-quality brain and spine care. If you are in the process of being evaluated for or have received a brain or spinal cancer diagnosis, your physician will refer you to the appropriate specialist.
Our health system offers experienced doctors who specialize in treating cancer of the brain and spine, including:
- Radiation oncologists, who use high-energy beams or small particles to kill cancer cells
- Medical oncologists, who administer anti-cancer drugs, usually given into a vein or taken by mouth
- Neurosurgeons, who remove cancerous tumors, lesions and tissues
Fighting cancer is a tough job and we’re here to take it on with you. Our oncology nurses and oncology social workers know your treatment plan and help you get the support you need, whether it’s educational, emotionally supportive and wellness programs at The Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing, or a place for your loved ones to rest at the Arbor House, a free residential space on the CMMC campus.
Central Maine Healthcare Serves You From Four Locations