Complex Brain Tumors

Delivering the expertise and experience needed to manage hard-to-treat tumors

With an experienced medical team, you can enjoy a good quality of life after a brain tumor diagnosis. Complex brain tumors require a high level of knowledge and skill to treat and remove.

At IU Health, our team of experts delivers some of the best care in the country — along with the advanced technology and team approach needed to provide great outcomes.

A brain tumor is a mass of abnormal tissues that grow in or near your brain. Brain tumors can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Doctors consider a brain tumor to be complex when it is:

  • Located in hard-to-reach or sensitive areas
  • Attached to blood vessels in and around the brain

These factors can make brain tumors more difficult to treat.

Primary brain tumors start in your brain. Secondary brain tumors spread from other areas of the body to the brain. Secondary brain tumors are more common, but both can be complex.

“Prognosis” is a term that describes the predicted outcome for a person who has a brain tumor. The prognosis for a complex brain tumor depends on the individual and involves:

  • Tumor size and location
  • Tumor type and rate of growth (grade)
  • Age
  • Overall health

Complex Brain Tumor Symptoms

When you have a brain tumor, the symptoms you experience typically depend on your personal health and the characteristics of the tumor. The same is true when you have a complex brain tumor. You may experience:

  • Headaches
  • Numbness or tingling in your face
  • Seizures
  • Weakness on one side of the body

Understanding Complex Brain Tumors

A brain tumor is a mass of abnormal tissues that grow in or near your brain. Brain tumors can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Doctors consider a brain tumor to be complex when it is:

  • Located in hard-to-reach or sensitive areas
  • Attached to blood vessels in and around the brain

These factors can make brain tumors more difficult to treat.

Primary brain tumors start in your brain. Secondary brain tumors spread from other areas of the body to the brain. Secondary brain tumors are more common, but both can be complex.

“Prognosis” is a term that describes the predicted outcome for a person who has a brain tumor. The prognosis for a complex brain tumor depends on the individual and involves:

  • Tumor size and location
  • Tumor type and rate of growth (grade)
  • Age
  • Overall health

Complex Brain Tumor Symptoms

When you have a brain tumor, the symptoms you experience typically depend on your personal health and the characteristics of the tumor. The same is true when you have a complex brain tumor. You may experience:

  • Headaches
  • Numbness or tingling in your face
  • Seizures
  • Weakness on one side of the body

If you experience any symptoms associated with brain tumors, your doctor may perform a neurological exam. During the exam, your doctor checks brain function, which includes examining your:

  • Coordination
  • Hearing
  • Reflexes
  • Strength
  • Vision

If your doctor suspects a brain tumor, you will undergo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRI uses powerful magnets and radio waves to make images of your brain. Doctors find tumors by looking at these detailed images.

In some cases, you may need a biopsy to confirm a brain tumor diagnosis. During a biopsy, a neurosurgeon removes and tests brain tissue.

Diagnosing Complex Brain Tumors

If you experience any symptoms associated with brain tumors, your doctor may perform a neurological exam. During the exam, your doctor checks brain function, which includes examining your:

  • Coordination
  • Hearing
  • Reflexes
  • Strength
  • Vision

If your doctor suspects a brain tumor, you will undergo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRI uses powerful magnets and radio waves to make images of your brain. Doctors find tumors by looking at these detailed images.

In some cases, you may need a biopsy to confirm a brain tumor diagnosis. During a biopsy, a neurosurgeon removes and tests brain tissue.

If you have a complex brain tumor, you may undergo one or more treatments including

  • Watchful waiting: When you have no symptoms and/or a slow-growing tumor, doctors may decide to regularly monitor it instead of treating it.
  • Medical therapy: You take certain medications and undergo chemotherapy to manage symptoms and destroy cancer cells. Learn more about medicine management and chemotherapy.
  • Biopsy: A neurosurgeon removes and analyzes tumor tissue to better plan your treatment and prognosis.
  • Brain surgery: These procedures use a variety of advanced techniques to remove part or all of the brain tumor. They are also known as tumor resection.
  • Radiation: Radiation oncologists use focused energy to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors.

Our multidisciplinary brain tumor team

At IU Health, a team of doctors from different specialties collaborate to create your treatment plan. These specialists are experts in their fields — and include the only fellowship-trained neuro-oncologists in Indiana. Your care includes the most advanced medical and surgical treatments possible —thanks to their specialized training and years of experience.

These specialists include:

  • Neurologists: Specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of brain disorders
  • Neuro-oncologists: Provide chemotherapy and other advanced medical treatments, including therapies available only through clinical trials
  • Neuropathologists: Analyze brain tissue biopsies and provide detailed diagnoses
  • Neurosurgeons: Perform brain surgeries and biopsies
  • Radiation oncologists: Provide radiation therapy treatments

Minimally invasive brain surgery at IU Health

Our neurosurgeons have expertise in every area of brain surgery — including the techniques needed to safely remove complex brain tumors. Because of this depth of knowledge and experience, your operation will involve the least invasive approach possible.

Sometimes, our neurosurgeons use advanced endoscopic techniques to remove tumors through the nose. These minimally invasive surgeries allow patients to leave the hospital sooner and recover faster.

Read more about neurosurgery at IU Health.

Our advanced technology and equipment

We use the latest tools and technology to safely remove complex tumors. Some examples include:

  • Intraoperative MRI scanners: If a tumor is complex, neurosurgeons aren’t always able to safely remove all of it. Intraoperative MRI helps our neurosurgeons perform more precise operations. This real-time, imaging tool increases the amount of tumor tissue that we can remove.
  • The Zeiss OPMI Pentero: This microscope helps your neurosurgeon have a clearer picture of your blood vessels during surgery.
  • The NICO Myriad device: This device helps neurosurgeons remove hard-to-reach tumors.

Our experience with complex brain tumors

Experience is key when managing hard-to-treat brain tumors. When choosing a brain tumor specialist, it’s important to look for someone who:

  • Is part of an institution that regularly treats a large number of complex cases
  • Manages a lot of complex cases with good results

At IU Health, our specialists care for a lot of patients with complex tumors. Because of our experience, you’re able to receive a level of care and attention found only at the best academic medical centers in the U.S.

Complex Brain Tumor Treatment

If you have a complex brain tumor, you may undergo one or more treatments including

  • Watchful waiting: When you have no symptoms and/or a slow-growing tumor, doctors may decide to regularly monitor it instead of treating it.
  • Medical therapy: You take certain medications and undergo chemotherapy to manage symptoms and destroy cancer cells. Learn more about medicine management and chemotherapy.
  • Biopsy: A neurosurgeon removes and analyzes tumor tissue to better plan your treatment and prognosis.
  • Brain surgery: These procedures use a variety of advanced techniques to remove part or all of the brain tumor. They are also known as tumor resection.
  • Radiation: Radiation oncologists use focused energy to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors.

Our multidisciplinary brain tumor team

At IU Health, a team of doctors from different specialties collaborate to create your treatment plan. These specialists are experts in their fields — and include the only fellowship-trained neuro-oncologists in Indiana. Your care includes the most advanced medical and surgical treatments possible —thanks to their specialized training and years of experience.

These specialists include:

  • Neurologists: Specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of brain disorders
  • Neuro-oncologists: Provide chemotherapy and other advanced medical treatments, including therapies available only through clinical trials
  • Neuropathologists: Analyze brain tissue biopsies and provide detailed diagnoses
  • Neurosurgeons: Perform brain surgeries and biopsies
  • Radiation oncologists: Provide radiation therapy treatments

Minimally invasive brain surgery at IU Health

Our neurosurgeons have expertise in every area of brain surgery — including the techniques needed to safely remove complex brain tumors. Because of this depth of knowledge and experience, your operation will involve the least invasive approach possible.

Sometimes, our neurosurgeons use advanced endoscopic techniques to remove tumors through the nose. These minimally invasive surgeries allow patients to leave the hospital sooner and recover faster.

Read more about neurosurgery at IU Health.

Our advanced technology and equipment

We use the latest tools and technology to safely remove complex tumors. Some examples include:

  • Intraoperative MRI scanners: If a tumor is complex, neurosurgeons aren’t always able to safely remove all of it. Intraoperative MRI helps our neurosurgeons perform more precise operations. This real-time, imaging tool increases the amount of tumor tissue that we can remove.
  • The Zeiss OPMI Pentero: This microscope helps your neurosurgeon have a clearer picture of your blood vessels during surgery.
  • The NICO Myriad device: This device helps neurosurgeons remove hard-to-reach tumors.

Our experience with complex brain tumors

Experience is key when managing hard-to-treat brain tumors. When choosing a brain tumor specialist, it’s important to look for someone who:

  • Is part of an institution that regularly treats a large number of complex cases
  • Manages a lot of complex cases with good results

At IU Health, our specialists care for a lot of patients with complex tumors. Because of our experience, you’re able to receive a level of care and attention found only at the best academic medical centers in the U.S.

Patient Stories for Complex Brain Tumors

American Brain Tumor Association

Learn more about brain tumors from the nation's oldest non-profit organization dedicated to brain tumor education, support and research.

Resources

American Brain Tumor Association

Learn more about brain tumors from the nation's oldest non-profit organization dedicated to brain tumor education, support and research.