Brain and Central Nervous System Cancer

Brain and central nervous system cancer care at Scripps in San Diego

Scripps Health offers options for the treatment of cancers of the brain and central nervous system.

Brain and central nervous system cancer care at Scripps in San Diego

Scripps physicians and multidisciplinary teams provide specialized care for benign and malignant tumors of the brain and central nervous system (CNS) that can affect adults and children.

Scripps offers more ways than any other San Diego health care provider to detect, diagnose and treat neurological tumors using state-of-the-art surgeries, radiation therapies and targeted therapies.

Practicing at the leading edge of research and promising new cancer treatments, Scripps is one of only two local health systems offering an FDA-approved novel antimiotic therapy for a recurrent form of brain cancer. Clinical studies have shown that antimiotic therapy can slow and reverse tumor growth by inhibiting the process of how cells divide and replicate, known as mitosis.

Experts in brain cancer care

Learn about the expertise of the neurologists and oncologists at Scripps Health.

Experts in brain cancer care

The physicians at Scripps are experts at diagnosing and treating multiple types of brain and central nervous system tumors.

CNS cancer treatment

CNS cancer treatment

Expert diagnosis and patient access to treatment options

Scripps physicians and supporting clinicians at world-class facilities ensure that patients and families receive expert diagnosis and access to a host of advanced treatment options for brain tumors.

We focus on providing patients with the best ways to treat or manage benign or malignant tumors of the brain and central nervous system. Some of these tumors may not need aggressive treatment, while others can be fast growing and require the innovative care, for which Scripps is nationally known.

Multidisciplinary teams for patients with brain or spinal cord tumors may include medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, neurosurgeons, neuro-ophthalmologists, and otolaryngology surgeons specializing in procedures of the ear, nose and throat.

Central nervous system and brain cancers treated

Scripps Health provides care for benign and malignant tumors of the brain and central nervous system. Types of brain tumors and CNS cancer that we treat include:

  • Astrocytoma tumors, which most often start in the brain’s lower part called the cerebellum, but can originate in the optic nerve, hypothalamus brain stem or other nearby areas. When classified as grade IV, these tumors are also referred to as glioblastoma tumors.
  • Chondrosarcoma tumors, which are a malignant form of chordoma. This rare type of bone tumor usually is found along the bony structure behind the eyes or at the base of the skull.
  • Chordoma tumors, which are rare and usually originate at the base of the skull near the pituitary gland.
  • Craniopharyngioma tumors, which are usually found in the pituitary stalk area, represent as many as 5 percent of primary brain tumors and up to 10 percent of childhood brain tumors.
  • Ependymoma tumors, which account for as many from 2 percent to 3 percent of primary brain cancers. Thirty percent of these types of tumors diagnosed in children are in patients younger than 3 years old.
  • Glioblastoma tumors, which represent approximately 17 percent of all primary brain tumors, and 3 percent of pediatric tumors. Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most common and most malignant tumors that affect the glial cells in the brain.
  • Meningioma tumors, which originate in the lining of the brain and spinal cord called meninges. These tumors are often benign and represent 33 percent of all primary brain tumors, occurring most frequently in middle-aged women.
  • Metastatic brain tumors and metastatic spinal cord tumors, which do not originate in the brain or central nervous system, but have spread from other parts of the body (metastasized).
  • Neuroblastoma tumors, which are predominantly found in children age 10 or younger. Nearly 90 percent of neuroblastomas are diagnosed in patients under age 5.
  • Oligodendroglioma, which are a type of glioma tumor that represent 4 percent of all primary brain tumors.
  • Schwannomas and neurofibromas, which are nerve sheath tumors of the spine and usually benign. They start in the nerve roots that extend from the spinal cord.

Detection and diagnosis of brain tumors and spinal cord tumors

Tests and screenings used to detect and diagnose brain tumors or central nervous system tumors may include:

Treatment of central nervous system and brain tumors

For patients with brain cancer, Scripps multidisciplinary teams can be composed of several physicians and skilled clinicians, including medical oncologists, neurologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists, endocrinologists, pathologists, oncology nurses and other supporting health care staff.

Treatment depends on different factors, including tumor location and type (malignant or benign), stage, health and age of patient, and disease progression. Treatment plans may include:

Surgery for brain tumors

Surgery can be performed as a primary treatment for brain tumors or in combination with other treatments. Brain surgery to remove all or as much of a tumor or tumors as possible may be through traditional “open” surgical procedures or minimally invasive techniques.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy may be a primary treatment or post-surgery treatment for many types of brain cancer. They can be treated with intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) or 3-D conformal radiation therapy — or stereotactic radiosurgery and stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) for acoustic neuroma tumors.


Chemotherapy for brain and central nervous system cancer is most commonly used in combination with other treatments such as surgery and radiation therapy. Chemotherapy can be a primary treatment, or administered before and after surgery, and in cases of recurrent cancers. Several chemotherapy drugs are FDA-approved for use with brain tumors. Scripps offers chemotherapy and infusion centers across San Diego County and in Scripps physician offices.

Targeted therapy and immunotherapy

FDA-approved drugs such as bevacizumab or everolimus, used in combination with chemotherapy or alone, have been found to help some patients in their treatment of brain cancer. Scripps physicians can help provide the best course of treatment for patients who may benefit from targeted therapies for tumors in the brain or central nervous system.

Support services

To enhance the care of people dealing with pheochromocytoma, Scripps Health also offers patient support services.

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