Brain & Spinal Tumors | Miami Cancer Institute | Baptist Health South Florida
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Woman supporting her husband, a a brain tumor patient at Miami Cancer Institute

 Brain & Spinal Tumors

Miami Cancer Institute is the only facility in the region that offers highly specialized care for patients facing primary and secondary tumors of the brain and spinal cord.

Our skilled team of neuro-oncologists, neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists, neuroradiologists, neuropathologists and palliative care specialists collaborate to develop your comprehensive, personalized care plan. Their level of expertise combined with advanced technologies and less-invasive treatment options, such as proton therapy, can lead to a successful outcome. 

While the primary goal of cancer treatment is eradicating the tumor, our neurologic cancer specialists are sensitive to the impact some therapies may have on your physical and cognitive function. They continue to look at new diagnostic and treatment approaches, and our clinical trials aim to bring significant advances in neuro-oncology cancer care. (Link clinical trials to Research & Clinical Trials in Treatments & Services)

Expert Neuro-oncology Cancer Care

Yazmin Odia, M.D., Miami Cancer Institute’s lead physician of Neuro-Oncology, is the only Board-certified neuro-oncologist in practice south of Orlando. She collaborates with internationally-renowned radiation oncologist and brain tumor expert Minesh Mehta, M.D., brain tumor surgeon Vitaly Siomin, M.D., and brain tumor medical oncologist Siddhartha Venkatappa, M.D., to provide the southern two-thirds of Florida, Latin America and the Caribbean singular access to unique expertise in neuro-oncology cancer care.

Dr. Mehta specializes in the utilization of today’s most advanced radiation modalities to treat cancers of the brain, including proton therapy – a sophisticated treatment that destroys cancer cells while avoiding the healthy surrounding tissue. Miami Cancer Institute’s proton therapy center is the only center in Florida to offer highly precise pencil-beam scanning. (Link proton therapy to Radiation Therapy in Treatments & Services)

About Brain and Spinal Tumors

A brain tumor is a growth of abnormal cells in your brain or close to your brain. A spinal tumor is a growth that develops within your spinal canal or within the bones of your spine. Brain and spinal tumors can be noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant). A tumor can begin in your brain or spine (primary tumor), or it can begin in other parts of your body and spread to your brain or spine (secondary, or metastatic, tumor). There are more than 100 types of brain and spinal tumors, some that cause relatively few symptoms and problems and others that are life-threatening. Common diagnoses include:

  • Glioblastoma or gliomas
  • Ganglioglioma or gangliocytomas
  • Medulloblastoma or embryonal neuroectodermal tumors
  • Meningioma
  • Ependymoma
  • Central nervous system lymphoma
  • Brain, spinal cord or leptomeningeal metastases

Brain Cancer Risk Factors

The cause of most primary brain tumors is unclear; however, experts have identified a few risk factors that may increase your risk of a brain tumor. They include:

  • Advanced age.
  • Family history of brain tumors.
  • Previous exposure to radiation therapy.

Spinal Cancer Risk Factors

Spinal cord tumors are more common in people who have:

  • Neurofibromatosis 2, an inherited disorder that affects the nerves related to hearing.
  • Von Hippel-Lindau disease, a rare disorder associated with noncancerous blood vessel tumors in the brain, retina and spinal cord and with other types of tumors in the kidneys or adrenal glands.
  • A history of cancer, especially breast, lung, prostate and multiple myeloma.

Symptoms of Brain Tumors

Symptoms of a brain tumor vary greatly and depend on the tumor's size, location and rate of growth. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Increased headaches, often in the morning
  • Balance problems
  • Seizures
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Vision or hearing problems
  • Weakness in an arm or a leg
  • Speech problems
  • Personality changes

Symptoms of Spinal Tumors

Symptoms of tumors affecting the spinal cord may include:

  • Back pain
  • Loss of sensation in the arms or legs
  • Difficulty walking
  • Decreased sensitivity to pain, heat and cold
  • Loss of bowel or bladder function muscle weakness in different parts of the body, depending on which nerves or part of the spinal cord is compressed.

An accurate diagnosis that pinpoints the tumor allows your care team to provide you with the most advanced treatment. To diagnose brain or spinal cord cancer, your doctor may conduct several tests, including:

  • A neurological exam to assess your reflexes, speech, coordination and strength.
  • Blood tests.
  • Imaging tests such as CT scan, MRI, functional MRI, perfusion MRI, diffusion tensor imaging and PET scan.
  • Biopsy, which can be performed during surgery or using a needle.

One of the most exciting advances in the fight against certain types of brain and spinal cord tumors is proton therapy. Miami Cancer Institute’s Proton Therapy Center is the only center of its kind in the region and one of only 14 in the United States. An advanced form of radiation treatment, proton therapy spares healthy tissue and eliminates many of the side effects of conventional radiation treatment.

Other treatment options for brain and spinal tumors include (alone or in combination):

  • Neurosurgery to remove the tumor.
  • Radiation therapy​ to stop or slow the growth of brain tumors that cannot be removed with surgery.
  • Chemotherapy, sometimes used in combination with radiation therapy.
  • Hyperthermia treatment, a minimally invasive procedure using high heat to kill cancer cells.
  • Biological, targeted and gene therapy, sophisticated treatments using bacteria, vaccines, drugs or other methods to stimulate the immune system and kill or damage cancer cells. (Link “Biological, targeted” to Cancer Drugs in Treatments & Services)
  • Clinical trials that offer the opportunity to receive innovative therapies. (Link to Clinical Trials & Research in Treatments & Services)

In addition to surgeons, oncologists and radiation oncologists, highly specialized nurses, dietitians, therapists and social workers in our Cancer Patient Support Center work together to ensure you receive individualized care.