At our UCHealth Cancer Centers we provide a multidisciplinary approach to patients with brain and spine tumors (malignant and benign). At the Anschutz campus is Colorado’s only NCI designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, and we have centers in metro Denver, Fort Collins, Loveland, Colorado Springs, and Steamboat Springs.
At UCHealth cancer care facilities, a multidisciplinary team of doctors, nurses and support professionals work together to develop the best treatment plan for you. We work with you from the moment of diagnosis, through your individualized treatment plan, and into your aftercare.
Our multidisciplinary approach to treatment
Our team of skilled, board-certified physicians and providers will provide you with a full range of treatment options during your visit. This brain- and spine- focused collaborative team includes:
- Neuro-oncologists (Anschutz main campus only)
- Radiation oncologists
- Nurse practitioners & physician assistants
- Registered dieticians
- Social workers
- Oncology nurse navigators
UCHealth’s partnership with the University of Colorado Cancer Center, Colorado’s only NCI-designated cancer center, enables us to offer patients treatment options and procedures that are the result of the latest science and research. Our emphasis on research means that you don’t just receive life-saving treatment; you join us on the front line as we fight cancers of the brain and spine.
Brain tumor diagnosis and staging
Once a brain/spine tumor or cancer has been diagnosed, our specialists will determine the stage of your disease. Knowing the stage of your brain or spine tumor allows your medical team to determine the best possible treatment plan for you.
Any combination of these tests and procedures may be used to find and classify (stage) brain tumors and cancers:
- Neurological examination. Helps find the cause of symptoms and provides a standard way to monitor changes throughout treatment; this will include a complete medical history, a screening of neurological function, diagnostic tests, and possibly blood tests.
- Angiography, MRI angiography (MRA). Maps blood vessels in the brain with (angiography) or without (MRA) the use of dye injected into an artery
- Biopsy. Removes a small amount of cells or tissues for viewing under a microscope to check for signs of cancer
- CT scan (computed tomography). Uses a type of X-ray to create detailed, highly accurate, cross-sectional images of the body
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Uses a magnetic field instead of X-rays to provide detailed images of body structures
- PET scan (positron emission tomography). Uses an injection of a short-lived radioactive substance to create detailed images of body structures that help identify cancer and areas of inflammation in different parts of the body
- Lumbar puncture. A procedure that uses a fine needle inserted into the spinal canal low in the back to collect and look at the fluid (cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF) surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
Treatments and therapies
Treatment for brain/spine tumors vary greatly from person to person. Your medical team may use any combination of surgery, chemotherapy, embolization, radiation, or new immunotherapies to control your cancer.
Surgery to remove some or all of the brain tumor, called a craniotomy, and is performed by a specially trained neurosurgeon. The surgeon opens the skull and removes as much tumor as safely as possible.
Radiation therapy (radiotherapy) uses X-rays and other types of medical radiation aimed at specific parts of the brain. The radiation kills cancer cells, prevents cancer cells from developing or recurring, and improves many of cancer’s symptoms. For certain cancers, radiation therapy is combined with chemotherapy and called chemoradiation.
Chemotherapy uses drugs that slow down, damage or kill cancer cells. It may involve single drugs or combinations of drugs given through a vein in your arm or by mouth. Your team will also prescribe drugs to reduce or eliminate chemotherapy’s side effects.
Five-year brain cancer survival rates
Number of Patients Diagnosed – UCHealth 442 – State of Colorado – 1.326
Number of Patients Surviving – UCHealth 262 – State of Colorado – 402
*n<30, 5 Year Survival – (Date of diagnosis 1/1/2010–12/31/2014)
National Cancer Institute (NCI). Brain Tumors (https://www.cancer.gov/types/brain)
MedlinePlus: National Library of Medicine. Brain Tumors (https://medlineplus.gov/braintumors.html)
National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI): National Library of Medicine. Brain tumors: Special characters for research and banking (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4300589/)