Conditions & Treatments

Brain Tumors

A brain tumor is an abnormal growth of tissue in the brain. The tumor can either originate in the brain itself, or come from another part of the body and travel to the brain (metastasize). Brain tumors may be classified as either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous), depending on their behavior.

Brain Tumors: Treatment Questions

Talking with healthcare providers about your tumor can be overwhelming. It can be hard to take in all of the information. It helps to be prepared. Make a list of questions and bring them to your appointments. Write the answers down in a notebook. Make sure you ask how the treatment will change your daily life, including your diet, and how you will look and feel after treatment. Ask how successful the treatment is expected to be, and what the risks and possible side effects are.

You may also want to ask a friend or family member to go with you. He or she can take notes and write down the answers, and also ask questions you may not think of. You can also ask your healthcare provider if you can record the conversation.

Below are some questions to ask during your appointments.

Deciding on a treatment

  • What type of brain tumor do I have?

  • How quickly is this type of tumor expected to grow?

  • Where exactly is the tumor? How big is it?

  • How often do you treat this type of tumor?

  • Do I need to be treated right away?

  • What are my treatment choices?

  • Can the tumor be removed with surgery?

  • What treatments do you think are best for me and why?

  • What treatments do you think are not for me and why?

  • What are the goals of the treatment you are recommending?

  • What is the success rate of this treatment for my type of tumor?

  • Are there any clinical trials I should apply for?

Getting ready for treatment

  • What is the length of the treatment period?

  • How long will each treatment take?

  • Where do I have to go for the treatment?

  • Who will give me the treatment?

  • Does someone need to go with me during treatments?

  • Can I take my other medicines during treatment?

Coping during treatment

  • What side effects should I expect?

  • How long will side effects last?

  • Are there side effects that I need to call you about?

  • How do I reach you after hours and on weekends?

  • What can I do to ease the side effects?

  • Should I change my diet? Are there foods I should not eat?

  • Will I be able to go to work and be around my family?

  • Are there support groups nearby that I can join?

After treatment

  • How will I feel after the treatment?

  • What type of follow-up will I need after treatment?

  • How will we know if treatment worked?

  • What are my options if the treatment doesn't work or the tumor comes back?


Treatment Programs

Massachusetts General Hospital understands that a variety of factors influence patients' health care decisions. That's just one reason why we're dedicated to ensuring patients understand their diagnosis and treatment options. Because a single option might not serve all patients, we offer a wide range of coordinated treatments and related services across the hospital. Patients should consult with their primary care doctor or other qualified health care provider for medical advice and diagnosis information.

Select a treatment program for more information:

Cancer Center

  • Neuro-Oncology (Brain Tumors)
    The Stephen E. and Catherine Pappas Center for Neuro-Oncology offers the most advanced care for patients with brain tumors and nervous system tumors.

  • Pediatric Imaging
    The Pediatric Imaging Program at Massachusetts General Hospital Imaging specializes in ensuring the safety and comfort of child patients while providing the latest technology and the expertise of specialized pediatric radiologists.
  • Cancer Imaging and Intervention
    The Cancer Imaging and Intervention Program at Massachusetts General Hospital Imaging combines leading-edge technology and the expertise of specialty-trained radiologists to provide comprehensive cancer detection and monitoring, plus image-guided treatments for specific types of cancer.
  • Neuroendovascular Program
    Working as part of the Fireman Vascular Center, the interventional specialists of the Neuroendovascular Program perform minimally invasive, image-guided treatments for conditions including stroke and cerebral aneurysm. In addition, our specialty-trained radiologists use the latest imaging technologies to provide diagnostic exams for a full range of neurological conditions.
MassGeneral Hospital for Children

  • Pediatric Neurosurgery
    The Pediatric Neurosurgery service at MassGeneral Hospital for Children diagnoses and treats all neurosurgical conditions of infants, children and adolescents, with special expertise in the management of pediatric brain tumors, hydrocephalus, spinal cord disorders, Chiari malformations, craniosynostosis, AVM's and epilepsy surgery.
  • Psychology Assessment Center
    The pediatric neuropsychology specialists at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Psychology Assessment Center provide neuropsychological assessments to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of neurological, medical, genetic and developmental disorders.
  • Pediatric Anesthesia
    The Pediatric Anesthesia team at MassGeneral Hospital for Children specializes in caring for children before, during and after surgery and other procedures.
  • Pediatric Epilepsy Surgery Program
    The MassGeneral Hospital for Children Epilepsy Surgery Program provides surgical evaluation and treatment for pediatric patients whose epilepsy cannot be managed with medical therapy or those for whom surgery is the best option overall.
Department of Neurosurgery

  • Brain Tumor (Stephen E. and Catherine Pappas Center for Neuro-Oncology)
    The Stephen E. and Catherine Pappas Center for Neuro-Oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital offers the most advanced care for patients with brain tumors and nervous system tumors.
  • Cranial Base Center
    Run jointly by Massachusetts General Hospital and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI), the Cranial Base Center treats tumors and other cranial nerve disorders.
  • Proton Stereotactic Radiosurgery Center
    The Proton Stereotactic Radiosurgery Center provides a complete range of services for the diagnosis and non-invasive proton beam radiosurgery and fractionated radiosurgery treatment for brain and spinal tumors and other vascular malformations.
Department of Radiation Oncology

  • Central Nervous System Program
    Specialists in the Central Nervous System Program in the Department of Radiation Oncology include some of the world's leading experts in using radiation therapies to treat brain tumors and cancers of the spine and peripheral nervous system.
  • Head and Neck Program
    The Department of Radiation Oncology's Head-and-Neck Program specializes in providing state-of-the-art radiation therapy for patients with head-and-neck cancers, including complex forms of these diseases.
Speech, Language and Swallowing Disorders

  • Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapy
    This therapy approach is designed to help the individual develop skills and learn compensatory strategies to improve how he/she functions at home, school, and/or at work. This type of therapy addresses difficulties with attention, learning new information, memory, time management, planning, organization, and problem-solving. Tailored to meet the individual needs of the patient with cognitive and executive function deficits, our approach emphasizes the development of metacognitive and self-awareness skills.

The following related clinical trials and research studies are currently seeking participants at Massachusetts General Hospital. Search for clinical trials and studies in another area of interest.

Crushing Cancer

After their 8-year-old son had a successful brain tumor surgery in their home state of Washington, Joe and Leigh McGraw chose to take Tommy to MassGeneral Hospital for Children's Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center for targeted treatment. The McGraw's share the story of their experience at MGHfC in the letter and video below.

Innovative care at the Cancer Center

Learn more about the latest treatment options for this condition at the Cancer Center