Tumors (Benign & Malignant)

A tumor is an abnormal growth of cells that develops when cells divide and grow uncontrollably. As old cells die, new cells replace them. If that balance is upset, a tumor may develop.

There are two types of tumors:

  • Benign (noncancerous) – These types of tumors generally do not spread beyond their immediate or invade other tissue. Benign tumors can sometimes press against blood vessels or nerves or can mimic cancerous tumors, so they are often treated.
  • Malignant (cancerous) – These types of tumors can invade other tissue and spread to other parts for the body (metastasize), where they can cause serious or fatal damage. Malignant tumors are hard to treat and sometimes return after being removed.

Some tumors cause no symptoms. When symptoms do develop, they are related to the type and location of the tumor (for example, a lung tumor may cause difficulty breathing). Other tumors have no symptoms until a late stage of the disease.

Factors that can affect the body’s immune system and lead to the development of tumors include excessive alcohol consumption, overexposure to sunlight, obesity, genetic issues, viruses, exposure to certain chemicals and toxins, and radiation exposure.

The diagnosis of a tumor also depends on its type and location. Once a tumor is found, a biopsy is performed, during which a small piece of tissue is taken and examined under a microscope. Other diagnostic procedures may include blood tests, X-rays, CT or MRI scan, and tests to determine tumor types.

The Temple neurosciences team at Jeanes Hospital are among the most experienced and knowledgeable tumor specialists in the region, and use advanced technologies and techniques to diagnose and treat all types of tumors.

Tumor Treatment at Jeanes Hospital

Whether the treatment is for a brain or spinal tumor, the multidisciplinary Temple neurosciences team is prepared to provide comprehensive care aimed at eliminating the tumor and alleviating symptoms for patients. There are a wide array of treatment options available, but the decision of which approach to use is based on the type and location of the tumor.

Common nonsurgical treatments of tumors include:

  • Radiation – This approach uses a beam to destroy or stop tumor growth. It is often used when surgery is not possible or the tumor has spread to other parts of the body. Treatment is done on an outpatient basis daily over a period of up to 5 weeks.
  • Chemotherapy (“Chemo”) – This approach involves the use of very strong drugs to kill cells in tumors that are cancerous. There are different types of drugs used in chemotherapy, based on the type of cancer and what stage it is in. Chemo is administered in pill or liquid form, as a shot, or intravenously into a vein.

Another treatment option is surgery, which can be used alone or in combination with radiation and chemotherapy. The most common type of surgery for the removal of brain tumors is called a crainiotomy. It is an invasive procedure that involves removal a portion of the skull so that the tumor can be located and removed. This type of surgery generally requires a longer recovery time.

The Temple neurosurgeons at Jeanes also use advanced technologies that enable them to remove tumors with minimally invasive procedures that require small incisions and are performed on an outpatient basis. They include:

  • Endoscopic surgery – This procedure involves making a small incision. Using an endoscope with a high resolution camera, the tumor is dissected and removed with minimal pain or risk.
  • Stereotactic radiosurgery – This procedure uses a 3-D image of the tumor to deliver highly-focused x-ray beams of radiation to a small, precise location in the brain and avoid damaging other brain tissue. During the procedure, the patient wears a head frame or face mask that works with imaging technology to guide the surgeon to the precise location.

Treatment of spinal cord tumors mainly depends on where the tumor is located. If the tumor is pressing on the spinal cord, medications called corticosteroids may be prescribed to reduce swelling, followed by surgery to remove the tumor, relieve pressure and pain, reconstruct the spinal column, or stabilize the spine.

If you have a spinal or brain tumor, consult with your neurosciences physician to determine the best course of treatment for you.

To schedule an appointment with a Temple neurologist or neurosurgeon at the Jeanes Hospital Neurosciences Center, click here or call 215-728-CARE (2273).

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