The Neuro-oncology Unit at IOB treats patients diagnosed with a brain tumour, as well as patients with symptoms that make them suspect a possible brain tumour but who have not yet received a diagnosis. The unit also offers a second opinion service to patients who are treated at other centres.
On the other hand, the Neuro-Oncology Unit deals with the neurological complications of cancers that affect other organs. These include, for example, complications arising from the invasion of the brain by the tumour itself, the neurotoxic effects of chemo and radiotherapy, and the paraneoplastic neurological syndromes caused by an inflammation of the brain orchestrated by cancer, usually of the lung.
Patients treated at the Neuro-Oncology Unit are assisted by a team consisting of specialists in oncology, neurology, neurosurgery, pathological anatomy, radiotherapy, diagnostic imaging and nursing. This multidisciplinary team makes it easier for patients to undergo all the tests and receive all the treatments they need in a coordinated way in the same place and in as little time as possible, without the need to travel and visit different specialists separately. The team is led by the neuro-oncologist Francesc Graus.
Brain tumours are usually detected because of alterations in the behaviour or perceptions of a person that indicate a possible neurological injury. These alterations include, among others, recurrent headache with an unknown cause, personality changes, speech problems, vision disorders, deterioration of the sense of balance, fainting, nausea or recurrent vomiting. None of these symptoms allows us to conclude that a person has a brain tumour, since they can have many other causes. But, a Tac or Magnetic Resonance Imaging must be performed to show any lesion compatible with a brain tumour.
The diagnosis begins with a visit that includes a neurological examination and an in-depth interview with the patients, who are asked about their symptoms and medical history. This visit is essential to confirm if the patient’s suspicions of having a glioma or some other less frequent type of brain tumour are based on the imaging tests provided.
If these scans confirm the initial suspicion of a localised brain tumour, surgery is usually scheduled to remove the tumour and to obtain a sample of cells that will identify the specific type of cancer in question.
Following the strategy of immediate attention at IOB, the rapid diagnosis circuit allows to start the treatment within a period of one week after the first visit of a patient with symptoms of a possible brain tumour.
The treatment begins with a surgical intervention to remove the tumour whenever possible. It is a complex surgical procedure that is planned individually for each patient according to the type of tumour and its location in the brain.
In cases where the diagnosis is glioma, which is the most common form of brain tumour, the patient receives a radiotherapy treatment lasting six weeks after surgery. In a high percentage of patients, the treatment must be accompanied by chemotherapy that lasts for another six months. During this period, the patient is visited monthly to control the potential undesirable effects of chemotherapy, and every three months an MRI is performed to control the evolution of the glioma.