Brain & Spine Tumors

The UTMB Neurosciences team specializes in treating tumors in complex areas of the brain, spine and spinal cord. We offer patients the best chance of fighting disease while preserving physical and cognitive abilities.

Patients in the program work with a complete team of cancer specialists, including neuro-oncologists, neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists, neurointerventional radiologists and others who focus on brain and spine tumors. Your care team will work with you and your family to assure you have a comprehensive treatment plan. The program also includes experienced nurses, dietitians and other skilled caregivers.

Signs & Symptoms of Brain Tumors

Approximately 400,000 people are diagnosed with a brain or spine tumor in the U.S. every year. Most of these tumors are cancers that have spread to the brain or spine from other parts of the body. The majority of neurological cancers are malignant, but some are benign tumors.

Brain tumors can increase the pressure within the skull, especially when the tumor is large and surrounded by an accumulation of fluid. This increase in pressure can cause several symptoms, including headache, blurred or double vision, vomiting and changes in mental state. Neurological problems can also be related to the specific location of a tumor.


  • Metastatic Brain Tumors

    Tumors that have spread to the brain from other cancer sites in the body are called metastatic brain tumors. All metastatic brain tumors are malignant abnormalities. Certain primary malignancies, such as lung cancer and breast cancer, are more likely to spread to the brain than other cancers.

    Metastatic brain cancer that involves one tumor or one dominant tumor is often treated surgically. Focused radiation therapy (using technologies like Tomotherapy) can also be used. Patients with multiple brain metastases can be treated with whole brain radiation. Occasionally, patients with metastatic brain cancer also receive drug therapy.

  • Pituitary Tumors

    Pituitary tumors are abnormal growths that develop in your pituitary gland. Some pituitary tumors cause excessive production of hormones that regulate important functions of your body. Other pituitary tumors can restrict normal functions of your pituitary gland, causing it to produce lower levels of hormones. The vast majority of pituitary tumors are noncancerous growths

    Treatment for pituitary tumors involves various options, including removing the tumor, controlling its growth and managing your hormone levels with medications. Pituitary tumors require multidisciplinary care, and many can be managed with minimally invasive procedures. 

  • Primary Brain Tumors
    Primary brain tumors originate in the brain. Unlike metastatic brain cancers, primary brain tumors rarely spread to other parts of the body. A large percentage of primary brain tumors are benign.


Brain tumors are complex disorders that require advanced techniques to diagnose and safely remove. Surgery is usually the most effective first line treatment to establish diagnosis and/or remove as much of the tumor as safely as possible. Our neurosurgeons use advanced technologies to remove as much of the tumor as possible while preserving the surrounding brain tissue.

Radiation Therapy

Our radiation treatment technology includes the most advanced flexible and versatile systems available.


Chemotherapy may be used alone or in combination with radiation therapy. Treatments range from standard chemotherapy to use of anti-angiogenic agents (which target the blood vessels feeding the tumor) and new molecular agents.

Patient Education

The Brain Science Foundation is a non-profit, patient-support group that strives to educate patients about brain tumors, brain cancer treatments and fund research.

Spinal Tumors

Tumors of the spine are usually accompanied by back pain, and occasionally impaired function of the arms or legs. Approximately 80 percent of all spinal tumors are cancers growing within the bone of the spine. The remaining 20 percent are tumors growing in or near the spinal cord. Spinal cord tumors are usually benign, but a significant percentage of these tumors are malignant.Treating these tumors requires extremely intricate microsurgery and intra-operative monitoring of spinal cord function.


UTMB Health’s League City Campus is home to a TomoHD Mobile linear accelerator, which generates X-ray or electron beams to deliver radiation therapy.

"Tomotherapy is a type of radiation therapy that offers patients cutting edge cancer care in their own backyard," explains Dr. Todd Swanson, radiation oncologist at UTMB. “As opposed to traditional radiation therapy machines, which deliver a wide beam of radiation from only a few angles, this specialized system targets tumors with highly precise radiation delivered from 360 degrees around the patient – increasing the doctor’s control in getting radiation where it needs to be while decreasing the chance of damage to surrounding healthy tissue and organs.”

The League City Campus is one of three facilities offering Helical Tomotherapy in the Houston-Galveston area.

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