Brain Cancer Treatment Overview

More than 20,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with brain cancer and other nervous system cancers each year.

What is brain cancer?

There are two main types of brain cancer. Secondary (metastatic) brain cancer, the most common, is caused by cancer that originates in another part of the body and spreads to the brain. Primary brain cancer originates in the brain itself and can spread throughout the brain and spinal cord, but rarely spreads to other parts of the body.

What are brain cancer treatment options?

Doctors and other caregivers at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center will work closely with you and your family to develop a treatment plan suited to your situation. As well as providing specialized medical care, we offer a range of supportive services, including nutritional counseling, emotional and spiritual support, financial advice, and complementary therapies, such as acupuncture and massage.


Neurosurgeons at the Brain Tumor Center offer state-of the-art treatments for patients with benign or malignant tumors, including: low-grade glioma, high-grade glioma, astrocytoma, oligodendroglioma, anaplastic glioma, glioblastoma, pineal gland tumor, medulloblastoma, lymphoma, meningioma, and brain metastases.

They use advanced technologies to remove as much of the tumor as possible while preserving the surrounding brain tissue. These include a revolutionary open-style MRI scanner that allows the neurosurgeon to see MRI images in real time during surgery. This intra-operative MRI can help the neurosurgeon remove the tumor more precisely, reducing the risk of damage to other parts of the brain. Other surgical technologies include the use of 3-D navigation systems that allow us to precisely locate deep-seated or small brain tumors; monitor speech, motor or visual functions during surgery; and observe delicate cranial nerve functions.

Radiation therapy

Our radiation treatment equipment includes the most flexible and versatile systems available. Access to 3D conformal radiation, intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT), image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT), rotational RapidArc™ therapy, stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS), and stereotactic radiotherapy capabilities (SRT), enables us to individualize treatment for each patient.


Chemotherapy may be used alone or in combination with radiation therapy. Treatments range from standard chemotherapy to use of anti-angiogenic agents, which target the blood vessels feeding the tumor, and new molecular agents.

What can I expect from cancer care at Brigham and Women's Hospital?

Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center is devoted to helping people fight cancer by offering the most advanced treatment with compassion and care. We care for adult patients in 12 specialized centers, each devoted to a different type of cancer.

Part of our commitment to conquering cancer is developing new ways to prevent and screen for cancer, as well as developing new therapies. Milestones include:

  • Development of the CA 125 test, the first and only biomarker for ovarian cancer;
  • Pioneered new approaches in the assessment and treatment of prostate cancer;
  • Development of state-of-the-art surgical techniques for brain surgery.

Patient- and Family-focused Care

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) has long been committed to not only the care of our patients, but also the many other needs that they and their families have. This philosophy of patient- and family-focused care – involving systems and services that emphasize healing in a comfortable, relaxed environment – is a guiding force behind the care we provide at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center.

Quality of Patient Care

BWH is committed to providing all of our patients with the safest, highest-quality, most-satisfying care possible and follow established protocols that have been shown to improve patient outcomes. Our Inpatient Satisfaction Survey, sent to patients’ to assess their total care experience, helps us to monitor what we are doing well and areas for improvement. We pride ourselves in the Quality of Patient Care we provide and how we compare with other hospitals.

Who is on the cancer team?

The Center for Neuro-Oncology features a multidisciplinary team of specialists, including radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, surgeons, physicists, radiologists, interventional radiologists, endoscopists, pathologists, specialized nursing staff, dietitians, physical therapists, and social workers who use a patient-focused approach to deliver the most effective treatment for each patient. Meet our neuro-oncology team.

How do I contact Brigham and Women's Hospital?

If you believe you should have an evaluation and would like to schedule an appointment with one of our brain cancer experts, call 1-800-294-9999 to speak to one of our knowledgeable coordinators who can help to connect you to the doctor that best meets your needs, or fill out an online appointment request form.

Learn more about Brigham and Women's Hospital

For over a century, a leader in patient care, medical education and research, with expertise in virtually every specialty of medicine and surgery.

About BWH