Treatment Options

Treatment Options

Our experts at OSF HealthCare Illinois Neurological Institute (OSF INI) have extensive experience in treating brain tumors. We offer the most advanced surgical and nonsurgical treatments available.

What to Expect

Typically, once a brain tumor is discovered, a high-quality MRI (magnetic resonance imaging scan) is taken. The scan allows your neuroradiologist and neurosurgeon to diagnose the type of tumor. If the tumor is small, benign ,and causes no symptoms, there may be no need for any treatment other than monitoring. In other situations, treatment may focus on radiation or Gamma Knife treatment.

Rest assured, your team will explore all options available and recommend the one that will give you the best long-term outlook.

Treatment Planning

After diagnosis you and your team will agree upon a treatment plan. Your team will consider the following criteria when deciding on your best treatment plan.

  • Type, size and characteristics of the tumor cells and blood vessels
  • The aggressiveness of the tumor (is it low-grade or high-grade)
  • Your age and general health
  • Symptoms that are related to the tumor

Treatment Options Overview

Treatment for brain tumors may include some or all of the following:

  • Observation
  • Surgery
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Chemotherapy


Sometimes, observation may be the only treatment you need. Observational treatment can be recommended if:

  • The tumor is slow growing
  • If it is small
  • If it produces few symptoms
  • If its location prohibits safe removal
  • If your age or general health doesn’t make you a good surgical candidate

During observation, you will receive regular examinations and image testing by your neurosurgeon to monitor any changes in the tumor. If the tumor grows or changes, other treatment options may be considered.


Surgery is one the most common treatments for patients with a brain tumor. OSF INI’s highly-skilled and experienced surgeons use state-of-the-art technology giving you the best treatment available. In many cases, additional treatment after surgery is utilized to ensure all cancerous tissue has been destroyed. This is typically done through radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy.

Historically, one of the biggest challenges in removing a brain tumor through surgery was the surgeon's inability to accurately see the entire tumor and monitor nearby brain tissue for damage.

Advance technology has solved this problem. At OSF INI, our neurosurgeons use this advanced technology including intraoperative imagining systems. With intraoperative imagining, your neurosurgeon will use high-resolution scans to see the exact location, shape, and size of the tumor. They will know instantly how much of the tumor needs to be removed. This will preserve vital areas of the brain, which could reduce the need for additional surgery.

Removal of tumors is either complete, which is called a resection, or partial. Partial removal is normally the result of the tumor being too close to sensitive areas of the brain. Even if only partial removal is successful, this can relieve symptoms and sometimes increase the effectiveness of other treatments.

During the surgery, your doctor will usually conduct a biopsy. This is done by removing a small sample of the tumor to be examined under a microscope. Biopsies can confirm the diagnosis and be helpful in recommending further treatment options.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy, also referred to as radiotherapy, is cancer treatment using high-energy x-rays and other types of radiation, such as light energy. This type of therapy is used to destroy cancer cells or prevent a tumor from growing. Radiation therapy is non-surgical and painless and can be used to treat cancer in the brain which is difficult to reach. It can also be used after surgery to destroy remaining cancer cells and relieve symptoms caused by brain tumors.

There are several methods of radiation therapy, including external beam radiation (also referred to as focused radiation) and stereotactic radiosurgery.

External Beam Radiation (Focused Radiation)

External beam radiation uses a machine called a linear accelerator to deliver radiation to the cancer, from outside the body. It is most common type of radiation therapy used for brain tumors and can be done in single or multiple doses over a period of time. Side effects can depend on the type and dose of radiation given. These side effects include, fatigue, headaches and some scalp irritation.

Stereotactic Radiosurgery

Despite its name, stereotactic radiosurgery is not actually surgery at all. It requires no incision and is painless. This therapy uses narrow beams of radiation generated from different angles to give highly-focused radiation to a brain tumor, while sparing the surrounding tissue. It usually takes one or two hours and is typically one treatment. Most patients go home the same day. Side effects include, fatigue, headache and nausea.

The OSF INI offers many different types of state-of-the-art radiosurgery options, considered the best in the world. The type of radiosurgery depends on the size of the tumor, other treatment and the required outcome.

Other radiosurgery options include:

  • Gamma Knife Radiosurgery
  • CyberKnife
  • Image-Guided Radiotherapy (IGRT)
  • Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)


Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment using drugs. There are two primary types of chemotherapy drugs: those that kill cancer cells and those that prevent cancer cells from reproducing.

Chemotherapy drugs can be taken in pill form or through injection into a vein or muscle.


Illinois Cancer Care offers a tumor treating field (TTF) device that is manufactured by Novocure, called Optune.

By way of low intensity electric fields, Optune has shown extended survival by approximately 5 months when added to standard of care radiation and temozolomide chemotherapy.  Adhesive patches are attached to the head and no toxic chemicals are introduced into the body thus limiting side effects.  Our patients are able to carry on normal activities while at the same time effectively treating GBM after surgery.

To learn more, please visit