The diagnosis of a brain tumor can be scary. The Neuro-oncology team at Penn State Health is able to deliver patient care that is second to none. Being diagnosed with a brain tumor may be a big deal, but getting the right care doesn't have to be.
- Care at Milton S. Hershey Medical Center
- Groups, Classes & Support
- Research & Clinical Trials
- Symptoms, Diagnosis & Outlook
Care at Milton S. Hershey Medical Center
What is a brain tumor?
A brain tumor occurs when abnormal cells form in the brain. There are two main types of tumors: malignant (cancerous) tumors and benign (non-cancerous) tumors.
There are many different types of brain tumors. These include:
- Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM)
- Anaplastic astrocytoma
- Vestibular schwannoma (acoustic neuroma)
- Pituitary adenoma
- Neoplastic meningitis
Combined expertise at Penn State Health
We take a multidisciplinary approach to the care of patients diagnosed with brain tumors. Specialists involved in your care may include experts in:
- Radiation oncology
Diseases we treat
Conditions we treat include:
- Central nervous system (CNS) lymphomas
- Glioblastoma and primary brain tumors
- Metastatic brain tumors
- Neoplastic meningitis
- Pituitary tumors
- Acoustic neuromas
- Skull base surgery
- Spine tumors
Treatments we offer
There are many treatment options for patients with a brain tumor. Treatment usually begins with surgery for tumor diagnosis (called a biopsy) or tumor removal (called resection).
When tumor removal is needed, we first perform a procedure called a "craniotomy.” Your surgeon will cut a window in the skull to reach the tumor. We use the most advanced surgical techniques for the greatest safety and results. Tumors often called “inoperable” become operable with these techniques.
A craniotomy is not necessary for all patients with a suspected brain tumor. Sometimes your doctor can make a diagnosis with a minimally invasive stereotactic biopsy.
After surgery, many brain tumor patients will require additional therapy with either chemotherapy and/or radiation.
The Penn State Neurosurgery and Neuro-oncology Team offers the most advanced techniques and technologies including:
- Awake functional mapping
- Minimally invasive techniques
- Endoscopic endonasal approaches
- Advanced neuroimaging
- Intrathecal (IT) chemotherapy
- Gamma knife radiosurgery
- Laser ablation
- Vaccine and immunotherapy
Groups, Classes & Support
Central Brain Tumor Support Group: In Memory of Debbie Smith
This support group is for families and caregivers of patients during active brain tumor treatment. We offer information, assistance and comfort.
Meetings are held quarterly from 11 a.m. - noon
Penn State Health East Campus
30 Hope Drive, Entrance A
Hershey, PA 17033
Room 1710 A/B – Handicapped accessible
Reserve your spot by calling 717-531-4384.
Research & Clinical Trials
Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Penn State Neuroscience Institute are committed to providing world-class patient care with innovative therapies to treat brain tumors. We promote health and wellness, including the option for patients to participate in clinical research.
Our superb clinical research team - including dedicated nurses, clinical coordinators and data analysts - provides us with the opportunity to offer cutting-edge clinical trials to patients with brain tumors. These trials often include the use of new treatments that hold promise for the care of difficult-to-treat tumors.
We are currently conducting clinical trials for:
- Newly diagnosed glioblastoma
- Recurrent glioblastoma
- Metastatic breast cancer with brain metastases
- Neoplastic meningitis
To learn more about current clinical trials, visit StudyFinder.
Symptoms, Diagnosis & Outlook
Symptoms of a brain tumor
Symptoms depend on the tumor's size, location, how far it has spread, and whether there is brain swelling. The most common symptoms are:
- Changes in the person's mental function
- Seizures (especially in older adults)
- Weakness in one part of the body
- Changes in vision
Headaches caused by brain tumors may:
- Be worse when the person wakes up in the morning, and clear up in a few hours
- Occur during sleep
- Occur with vomiting, confusion, double vision, weakness or numbness
- Get worse with coughing or exercise, or with a change in body position
Other symptoms can include:
- Change in alertness (including sleepiness, unconsciousness and coma)
- Changes in hearing, taste or smell
- Changes that affect touch and the ability to feel pain, pressure, different temperatures or other stimuli
- Confusion or memory loss
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty writing or reading
- Dizziness or abnormal sensation of movement (vertigo)
- Eye problems such as eyelid drooping, pupils of different sizes, uncontrollable eye movement, vision difficulties (including decreased vision, double vision or total loss of vision)
- Hand tremor
- Lack of control over the bladder or bowels
- Loss of balance or coordination, clumsiness, trouble walking
- Muscle weakness in the face, arm or leg (usually on just one side)
- Numbness or tingling on one side of the body
- Personality, mood, behavior or emotional changes
- Trouble speaking or understanding others who are speaking
Diagnosing a brain tumor
The following tests may confirm the presence of a brain tumor and find its location:
- Computed tomography (CT) scan of the head
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the head
- Electroencephalogram (EEG)
- Examination of tissue removed from the tumor during surgery or CT-guided biopsy (may confirm the type of tumor)
- Examination of the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) (may show cancerous cells)
Brain tumors range in behavior from harmless to very aggressive. This is why the outlook for patients can vary a lot. Finding the brain tumor early and seeking treatment at a specialized brain tumor center provides patients with the best outcomes.