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Brain, Spinal & Central Nervous System Cancer (Neuro-oncology)

older daughter and mother smiling while hugging
older daughter and mother smiling while hugging

When a tumor is found in the brain, spine or central nervous system, treatment needs to be comprehensive and cutting-edge. Ochsner’s Neuro-oncology group is made up of award-winning physicians, all experts in their field, who come together with one common goal — to create a unique plan of care tailored to each individual patient.

Treatment options for brain and spinal cancer include both surgical and non-surgical options, and if a patient’s care plan calls for surgery, they’re in good hands — the Ochsner neuro-oncology surgeons are among the region’s most experienced in both conventional open surgery, minimally invasive surgery, and non-invasive radiosurgery.

And when surgery isn’t enough, Ochsner’s commitment to ongoing research offers patients additional supplemental care through clinical trials.

The Ochsner neuro-oncology program provides everything you need in one place so you don’t need to travel far for exceptional, comprehensive care. Your neuro-oncology care team is comprised of specialists from:

The team also includes experienced nurses, social workers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, spiritual counselors and more.

At Ochsner, we treat a large range of cancerous and noncancerous neuro-oncology conditions, including aggressive brain and spinal cord cancers like glioblastoma, slow-growing brain tumors like low-grade astrocytoma, and other brain and spinal cord tumors.

As the largest neuro-oncology center in the region, Ochsner offers the latest surgical and nonsurgical treatment options. Our neurosurgeons perform advanced minimally invasive and robotic surgeries, which provide increased accuracy and protect healthy brain tissue while allowing for easier recovery than traditional surgery.

Treatment options for neuro-oncology conditions at Ochsner include:

  • Functional brain mapping. While the patient is awake but feels no pain, the surgeon can use a probe to stimulate specific areas of the brain while the patient answers questions or performs motor skills. By determining exactly which areas of the patient’s brain are responsible for specific functions — including speech, memory, movement and physical sensations — the neurosurgeon can operate on other areas of the brain while trying to preserve areas critical for function.

  • Laser interstitial thermal therapy. This sophisticated, minimally invasive surgical technique allows the surgeon to use a laser probe to heat and destroy unhealthy brain tissue. The surgeon uses a neuro-navigation system (real-time computerized guidance of the skull) and advanced MRI technology to see the circuits of the brain and precisely guide the laser.

  • Minimally invasive surgery. Whenever possible, Ochsner neurosurgeons use minimally invasive techniques to operate. Because the surgery is performed through smaller incisions, patients typically experience less blood loss, reduced pain, shorter hospital stays and a shorter recovery period.

  • Stereotactic radiosurgery. Our expert neurosurgeons are among the region’s most experienced in using this treatment, which destroys tumors with focused radiation beams. Despite the name, radiosurgery is not traditional surgery, as no incisions are required to perform the treatment. Gamma Knife technology at Ochsner uses advanced imaging techniques to shape radiation beams precisely to the tumor in three dimensions, giving patients the highest treatment dose of radiation while preserving healthy surrounding tissues. A frameless option for immobilization uses a mask rather than a head ring to keep patients still while they receive treatment.

Brachytherapy. Also known as internal radiation therapy, this treatment kills cancer cells with radioactive beads that are placed inside the brain.

Ochsner is dedicated to advancing neuro-oncology treatment through clinical trials and focused research. We serve as a clinical trials site for the Cancer Focus Fund, partnering with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center to provide access to early-stage trials and other treatments not available anywhere else in the region.


Central nervous system cancers are cancerous tumors found in the brain and spinal cord. Primary brain tumors are those that form in the brain. This type of tumor often grows quickly and spreads to other parts of the brain or the spine, but they don’t usually spread to other parts of the body. Noncancerous tumors rarely spread to other parts of the body.

Brain tumors can start elsewhere in the body, such as the lungs, breast or colon, and spread to the brain. This is called a metastatic brain tumor and is the most common type of brain tumor.

Experts don’t know what causes most brain and spinal cord tumors. However, certain factors can raise your risk, including having a family history or certain genetic syndromes and being exposed to certain viruses, such as the Epstein-Barr virus.

Symptoms of tumors in the central nervous system can vary widely from person to person. Both cancerous and noncancerous tumors can cause symptoms as they press on nearby parts of the brain, stopping that area from working the way it should. Any tumor in the central nervous system, whether malignant or benign, requires treatment.

Brain tumor symptoms include:

  • Headaches in the morning or headaches that go away after vomiting

  • Loss of appetite

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Personality, mood and behavior changes

  • Problems with vision, hearing and speech

  • Seizures

  • Sleepiness

  • Weakness

Spinal cord tumor symptoms include:

  • Back pain that spreads toward the arms and legs

  • Numbness or weakness in the arms and legs

  • Trouble urinating or changes in bowel habits

  • Trouble walking

Survival rates depend on many factors. Childhood cancers that are detected early can often be treated successfully. For adults, five-year survival rates (the percent of people who live at least five years after cancer is found) vary widely depending on the type of cancer and the stage at which it is detected. At Ochsner, we do everything possible to improve your quality of life and help you beat the odds.

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Map of Ochsner-affiliated facilities that provide services related to Brain, Spinal & Central Nervous System Cancer (Neuro-oncology)

Brain, Spinal & Central Nervous System Cancer (Neuro-oncology) Locations

St. Tammany Cancer Center - A Campus of Ochsner Medical Center
900 Ochsner Blvd.
Covington, LA 70433
  • Mon – Fri: 7 a.m.-6 p.m.
Ochsner Lafayette General Medical Center
1214 Coolidge St.
Lafayette, LA 70503
  • Open 24/7