Brain Tumor

A brain tumor is a collection of abnormal cells in the brain. Normal cells in the body develop, age, die, and are replaced by new cells; tumors disrupt that cycle by causing cells to continue to grow but not die. A primary brain tumor originates in the brain. A secondary brain tumor, also called a metastatic brain tumor, occurs when cancer cells spread to the brain from other organs, most commonly from the lung or the breast. Primary brain tumors can be noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant). All secondary brain tumors are malignant.

For more information about how we diagnose and treat cancerous (malignant) tumors, visit the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center website.

UAB Medicine patients benefit from having a leader in brain tumor treatment right in their own backyard. UAB Medicine Neuro-Oncology is recognized as one of the top programs of its kind in the nation, and we have the state’s only Comprehensive Cancer Center, as designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). This means that our patients have access to the most advanced cancer treatments and research studies available.


  • We provide the latest research-based care, including immunotherapy, gene therapies, and cancer stem cell-targeted therapies.
  • Care is delivered by a team of nationally and internationally recognized specialists, who work together to design the most effective treatment plans.
  • The director of our program wrote the national guidelines for treating cancers of the central nervous system, including brain tumors.
  • As a regional referral center, UAB Medicine offers patients access to groundbreaking surgical techniques, new chemotherapies and radiation therapies, and clinical trials of the newest and most advanced treatments.
  • We help support our patients through this difficult time with compassionate care that includes dedicated social workers, patient and caregiver support groups, and a Caregiver Distress Program.

For more than 30 years, the UAB Neuro-Oncology Program has provided compassionate, complete care for patients with primary brain and spinal cord tumors, nervous system metastases, and neurologic complications of cancer. This team includes a variety of dedicated professionals who help guide patients through diagnosis and all stages of treatment, including:

  • Neuro-oncologists
  • Neurosurgeons
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Neuro-radiologists
  • Neuro-pathologists
  • Advanced practice providers (APPs)
  • Patient care coordinators
  • Rehabilitation specialists
  • Social workers
  • Palliative care physicians

Surgical Care

UAB Medicine provides specialized surgical care for patients with brain tumors, including:

  • Image-guided surgery for benign and malignant brain tumors, which allows for safe and complete removal of tumor material without damaging normal brain tissue.
  • Awake surgeries for malignant brain tumors in certain areas of the brain, so that as much of the tumor as possible can be removed in the functionally important brain areas; this also minimizes the risks of post-operative complications.
  • Innovative surgical clinical trials that allow neurosurgeons to directly target remaining tumor cells during surgery.
  • Plans to begin offering fluorescence-guided surgery for malignant brain tumors, which causes tumor cells to “shine” during surgery and gives surgeons the best chance of removing the maximum number of cancer cells.

Common Disorders Treated by UAB Neuro-Oncology

Primary nervous system tumors:

  • Astrocytomas
  • Oligodendrogliomas
  • Glioblastomas
  • Medulloblastomas
  • Ependymomas
  • Meningiomas
  • Germ cell tumors
  • Primary central nervous system lymphoma
  • Nerve sheath tumors (schwannoma, neurofibroma)
  • Pituitary region tumors (pituitary adenoma, craniopharyngioma)

Secondary nervous system tumors (metastases):

  • Metastases to the brain and/or spinal cord
  • Secondary central nervous system lymphoma
  • Meningeal metastases (meningeal carcinomatosis)
  • Epidural metastases and spinal cord compression

Neurologic complications of cancer, including:

  • Brain tumor-related seizures
  • Paraneoplastic syndromes
  • Complications of cancer therapy, such as chemotherapy-related neuropathies and immunotherapy-related complications

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