Neuro-oncology is the specialty that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of cancerous and benign tumors in the neural system, which includes the spinal cord, brain, head, and neck. Neuro-oncologists are physicians with specialized training in the field of oncology (cancer) and neurology.
Neural tumors may be detected through radiation imaging procedures such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET), which may allow neuro-oncologists to assess the progression and treatability of a tumor. Another radiation imaging technique is 2-hydroxyglutarate (2-HG) MRI, an innovative imaging method developed to identify a type of brain tumor called gliomas. A neuro-oncology patient can be diagnosed with the following conditions:
Treatment is dependent on the patient's health and the condition's progression and location within the body. For neuro-oncological disorders, chemotherapy is administered by systemic delivery (injection or pill) or intrathecal catheter (catheter needle placed directly into spinal fluid, brain, or tumor). Radiation therapy can also eliminate cancer cells, while hopefully preserving and protecting nearby neural tissues. Stereotactic radiotherapy precisely directs radiation to affected areas, while intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) additionally alternates the intensity and delivery of radiation beams. Tumors unresponsive to chemotherapy and radiation may be removed through minimally invasive neurosurgery. Operations such as laser ablation surgery use lasers to target and destroy tumors, while endoscopic surgery and keyhole craniotomy thread an endoscope (tiny camera) into the brain and make small removal incisions.
Neuro-oncologists may collaborate with neurologists, neural surgeons, radiation oncologists, neurotologists, neuropathologists, neuropsychiatrists, and rehabilitative medicine specialists to provide treatment.