Our Approach

Patients who come to the Siteman Cancer Center for treatment of brain or spinal tumors are seen by a team of Washington University Physicians – medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, neuro-surgeons, radiologists, supportive care specialists and a health psychologist.

Experienced nurses then spend time with you, answering your questions and putting you in touch with resources that may help during this stressful time. These nurses offer patient information on brain and spinal cord tumors, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and other related issues. As a unique feature of your care, we also offer the services of a palliative care specialist who can help you fit treatment into your own special circumstances, if needed.

Having your cancer treated at Siteman gives you access to new therapies that are as good as – or potentially better than – current standard therapies available elsewhere. Our brain and spinal tumor care team provides state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment strategies for patients with newly diagnosed or recurrent tumors. Among these strategies are the latest therapies available through clinical trials. Many of our specialists also do laboratory research that can be rapidly translated into clinical care.

Weekly, members of our team meet to discuss patient cases. Through this multidisciplinary approach, physicians in different clinical areas discuss the best way to treat individual cases. Expertise of the neuro oncology group covers neurosurgery, neurology, neuro-oncology, neuroradiology, nuclear medicine, radiation oncology, ophthalmology and otolaryngology.

Neuro oncology is divided into location of tumors (brain, spine, skull based or pituitary), grade of tumor (I – IV) and whether the tumor is benign (non-cancerous) or malignant. Some tumors, such as meningiomas, can occur anywhere in the central nervous system where meninges, the covering of the brain and spinal cord, are present However, specific treatment is often dictated by the location of the tumor and its proximity to delicate structures.

Even though a tumor may not be cancerous, its location and size or the effect it has on hormone production can cause serious problems for you. Three of the top four types of tumors, meningioma, pituitary, and cranial nerve tumors, are usually benign. That’s why it is best to have your situation evaluated by a multidisciplinary team of specialists who have had vast experience with all these situations and know when a tumor has to be treated, and when watchful waiting is a better option.

In addition to the long term expertise of the clinicians and the technology and latest clinical trials available for individual patients, the program never forgets that you are an individual with a family first, not a diagnosis. The best science is paired with the best caregivers to make sure your quality of life is enhanced with support for psychosocial aspects of treatment and supportive therapies to make sure you gain your highest level of functioning post-treatment.