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Our Brain Cancer Treatment Approaches

UPMC offers expert treatment in the field of brain oncology, for patients with malignant (cancerous) tumors in the brain or skull base. Our neurosurgeons have the depth and breadth of expertise required to treat most manifestations of brain cancer, including those once considered “inoperable.”

A brain tumor can be classified into two main types, malignant and benign (non-cancerous). Malignant brain tumors are more difficult to treat. This type of tumor grows more rapidly, usually destroying surrounding brain tissue.

Malignant brain tumors can be further classified as primary or secondary tumors. Primary brain tumors originate in the brain and rarely spread to other parts of the body. Primary brain tumors are named from the cells in which they originate.

Secondary brain tumors, or brain metastases, originate from cancer cells in another part of the body that have spread to the brain, from such regions as the lungs or breasts. They may appear anywhere in the brain, but most commonly at the junction of gray matter and white matter. 

Brain Conditions Treated

Experts at UPMC regularly treat the following conditions that are or may be cancerous:

Treatment Options

Treatments vary depending on the type and location of the tumor and ongoing cancer treatment.

The three standard treatments are:

Your physician may recommend one or a combination of these treatments.


When possible, our neurosurgeons employ minimally invasive surgical techniques that offer patients minimal scarring, fewer side effects and complications, and faster recovery.

The Endoscopic Endonasal Approach (EEA) is used to reach tumors at the base of the skull and upper spine, and Neuroendoport® Surgery can reach tumors within the substance of the brain (the parenchyma) or within the fluid spaces of the brain (the ventricles).

In addition, UPMC is the nation’s leading provider of Gamma Knife® procedures. Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a painless procedure that uses hundreds of highly focused radiation beams to target tumors and lesions within the brain, with no surgical incision required.

Radiation therapy

Radiation is commonly used to treat brain tumors, since surgery isn't always an option. Radiation therapy may be delivered externally by directing radiation at the tumor from an outside source, or internally by placing radioactive material directly in the body near the cancer. 


Chemotherapy uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells. Depending on the type and stage of the cancer, chemotherapy may be taken by mouth, as an injection, or placed directly into the brain tumor site.

UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences | Supplemental content provided by Healthwise, Incorporated. To learn more, visit

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

Pittsburgh, PA, USA |