Advanced Cancer Treatment in Pasadena, CA
At Pasadena CyberKnife, we believe there’s always hope in the fight against cancer – and our mission is to help our patients win it. As a leading cancer treatment center serving Pasadena and the greater Los Angeles, CA area, we’re proud to offer state-of-the-art cancer treatments from our world-class clinic, including the revolutionary CyberKnife radiation therapy treatment. We treat a wide range of cancerous conditions at our center, including all forms of brain cancer.
Grades of Brain Cancer
Normally, the severity of cancer is assessed using a staging system that’s broken into 4 or 5 stages depending on the size and development of the tumor. Brain cancers, however, are assessed using a system of grades, with the ‘grade’ of a tumor denoting how aggressively it grows. Higher grade tumors tend to grow faster, have an aggressive course, and are more likely to be malignant.
Our cancer treatment experts will observe your cancer cells under a microscope to determine the grade of your brain cancer:
- Grade I – The tumor is benign. The cells look nearly like normal brain cells. This grade is the least aggressive.
- Grade II – The tumor is malignant. The cells look more abnormal, but they are generally slow-growing cells
- Grade III – This is a malignant tumor with cells that look very abnormal and are actively growing (anaplastic).
- Grade IV – The malignant tissue has cells that look most abnormal and tend to grow quickly.
Types of Brain Cancer
The brain is the most complex organ in the body, and there are hundreds of different types of brain cancers. Broadly speaking, brain cancer may be either primary or metastatic: primary tumors originate in the brain, whereas metastatic tumors spread into the brain from another tumor somewhere else in the body.
Types of Primary Brain Tumors
There are more than 120 individual kinds of primary brain tumor, generally classified based on the location of the tumor in the brain or the type of cell the cancer started in. Primary brain tumors may be benign, which is a slow-growing, noncancerous tumor, or malignant, which is a more dangerous, fast-growing, cancerous tumor.
Benign tumors don’t contain cancer and usually grow slowly, but they can cause trouble for you by interfering with the brain’s normal functions and, therefore, be dangerous. These types of tumors can usually be removed with surgery and don’t grow back. In some cases, benign tumors can become malignant over time.
Malignant brain tumors are a serious threat to your life. They usually grow fast and can aggressively overrun nearby brain tissue. The cancerous cells from these tumors usually don’t spread to other parts of the body, but even a single malignant brain tumor is a serious problem.
Here are a few of the most common types of primary brain tumors:
Astrocytoma: This type of tumor emerges from star-shaped glial cells called astrocytes, and it most often occurs in the cerebrum. Astrocytoma tumors do not usually spread outside the brain or spinal cord and usually will not affect other organs. Astrocytomas are the most common glioma and often have clearly defined outlines on diagnostic images. They sometimes have diffuse zones of infiltration (e.g. low-grade astrocytoma, anaplastic astrocytoma, glioblastoma) that can arise in any location in the central nervous system (CNS), but they can have a tendency to progress to more advanced grades.
GlioBlastoma Multiforme (GBM): This is the most common form of astrocytoma, and usually, it’s a malignant tumor. Primary GBM grow and spread to other parts of the brain very quickly. They can become very large before symptoms occur, but once symptoms do start, they often begin abruptly with seizures. Surgical removal is the most common treatment for this type of aggressive tumor if it can be done without serious neurologic injury. Since GBM is extremely infiltrative, complete surgical removal is impossible. Radiation therapy and stereotactic radiosurgery are used in addition to surgery and can double the median survival of patients compared to supportive care alone.
Meningioma: This refers to tumors that form in the meninges, which are three thin layers of tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord. These tumors are usually benign and generally slow-growing, but they can also be malignant. Meningiomas can happen at any age, even to children, but most frequently arise in older women. Meningiomas may not require immediate treatment and can be observed with MRI scans. If the patient has symptoms or the tumor is in a critical area, treatment is usually recommended. Patients are often treated with surgery, stereotactic radiosurgery, and radiation therapy.
Oligodendroglioma: This is a rare, slow-growing tumor that occurs in the cells that make up the fatty substance that covers and protects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. It is sometimes referred to as an oligodendroglial tumor. Oligodendroglioma can occur in adults and children, and the average age of diagnosis is 35. These tumors are often treated with surgery, radiation therapy, or stereotactic radiosurgery, and they will often respond well to chemotherapy as well.
Acoustic Neuroma (Vestibular Schwannoma): This slow-growing, almost always benign tumor arises from the cells that cover the vestibulocochlear nerve. The tumor is located on the nerve that connects the ears to the brain and can press on this nerve as it grows, which can cause symptoms of hearing loss, balance problems, or ringing in the ears (tinnitus). While removal by surgery has great tumor control rates, it can lead to hearing loss, facial numbness, or facial weakness. Multiple studies show outstanding tumor control rates with stereotactic radiosurgery with a far reduced risk of side effects.
Paraganglioma (Glomus Jugularis or chemodectomas): These are rare, usually benign tumors that most commonly affect the base of the skull and neck region. We can treat them with surgical resection, radiation therapy, or stereotactic radiosurgery.
Medulloblastoma: While this tumor can be seen in adults, it’s often diagnosed in children and teenagers and is the most common malignant brain tumor in childhood. Medulloblastomas often involve the spinal cord, which means treatment is often directed to the brain and spinal cord. Although less frequent, this tumor can spread throughout the body. Treatment usually involves a combination of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and occasionally stereotactic radiosurgery.
Ependymoma: This tumor forms from cells lining the ependymal lining of the ventricular system of the brain and spinal cord. This tumor is also often seen in children. Surgery is often followed by radiation or stereotactic radiosurgery.
Pituitary Adenoma: These tumors are almost always benign. The pituitary is located in the sella turcica which is near the optic nerve and optic chiasm. Tumors that progress in this location can lead to loss of vision. These tumors can make hormones in excess that can lead to symptoms. In many instances these tumors may not require treatment and in some instances can be treated with medication. Often times patients will require surgery, radiation therapy, stereotactic radiosurgery or a combination of treatments.
Central Neurocytoma: These tumors are rare and most commonly behave as benign tumors. They are often found in young adults but can be seen in children and the elderly. They usually form in the brain cavities and often result in swelling of the brain. Most patients will be treated with surgery and radiation therapy or stereotactic radiosurgery.
Types of Secondary Brain Tumors
Secondary brain cancers refer to tumors that start as a cancer somewhere else in the body, then travel to the brain through metastasis. Secondary brain tumors are labeled and classified based on where in the body they originated. Some of the most common types of metastatic brain cancer include:
Lung Cancer Metastases: Cancer that metastasizes to the brain most often originates in the lungs for both men and women. You usually find multiple brain tumors within nine months of the time the lung tumor is diagnosed.
Breast Cancer Metastases: This is the second most common type of brain metastases in women. These brain tumors often don’t show for a few years after the breast cancer is found, but can appear even five or ten years following original breast cancer treatment. Two or more metastatic brain tumors are common.
Melanoma Metastases: For men, these are the second most common type of brain metastases and they can metastasize to the brain or the meninges (the covering of the brain and spinal cord). These tumors usually occur several years after the primary melanoma and in multiples. Because these tumors have many blood vessels, they are at risk of bleeding.
Colon/Colorectal Metastases: With colon or colorectal cancer, a single tumor tends to metastasize a few years after the first tumor is diagnosed.
Kidney/Renal Metastases: Like colon cancer, this cancer usually moves to the brain as a single tumor within a few years of the primary tumor diagnosis. This type of tumor also has a high chance of bleeding.
Contact Your Pasadena Cancer Center
These are only a few of the hundreds of individual subtypes of brain cancer, and if you’re battling a brain cancer diagnosis in your family, we can help. While cancers of the brain are extremely serious, they are often treatable through a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, or radiotherapy – and our expert cancer doctors can help you find the treatment that’s best for your situation. Take the first step: contact us today to find out how our cancer treatment team can help you win the fight against cancer and reclaim your life. We can’t wait to hear from you!