Brain and spinal cord cancers overview
The neuro-oncology team at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center and UW Medicine has a wide breadth of expertise in both primary brain cancers and in brain and spinal cord metastases. At the Fred Hutch Brain and Spine Metastases Clinic, we specialize in treating patients with a primary cancer that has spread to the brain and spinal cord, known as brain and spinal cord metastases. Fred Hutch is one of the only centers in the U.S. with expertise in brain and spinal cord metastases.
Making medical decisions regarding the treatment of brain and spinal cord metastases is complex and requires an advanced level of knowledge and experience. Knowing how to minimize the side effects of treatments that can affect a patient’s brain function is also critical.
Our medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and surgeons are among the nation’s most knowledgeable and respected physicians in brain and spinal cord oncology. Each week, a team of multidisciplinary providers — including expert physicians, nurses and researchers — meets to discuss, evaluate and plan each patient’s individualized care.
Through the Fred Hutch Brain and Spine Metastases Clinic, we offer the most advanced treatment options available, including surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and immunotherapy. In addition, there are options for treatment within a clinical trial. We work closely with the Gamma Center at Harborview Medical Center, our proton therapy facilityr and the Alvord Brain Tumor Center at UW Medical Center – Montlake.
At Fred Hutch, we also offer our patients robust supportive care services such as nutrition, social work and psychiatry. It is important to us to care for our patients as a whole person, not just the disease or cancer.
About our patients
Our patients are often referred by their primary medical oncologist, who is treating their primary cancer. Some patients are seeking new options and a second opinion for their brain and spinal cord metastases.
We work closely with your primary cancer oncologist, involving them in your care and communicating with them frequently. Your primary oncologist remains with you throughout your brain or spinal cord metastasis treatment, and the treatments we offer complement your primary cancer care.
For patients with primary brain or spinal cord cancers
For patients with a primary (non-metastasized) brain or spinal cord cancer, our partners at the Alvord Brain Tumor Center at UW Medical Center – Montlake have a robust team with dedicated expertise in treating these cancers. Treatment is available for every type of primary brain and spinal cord cancer.
What to expect
If you have been diagnosed with brain or spinal cord metastasis, our neuro-oncology team at Fred Hutch is here for you. Our experts care for people just like you — all day, every day. We’re ready to provide our expertise, treatment and support to you and your family.
Bring any records that you may have from your other doctors and hospitals, including:
- MRI and CT scans
- Pathology slides
- Written summaries of your treatments and progress
During your first visit to the Fred Hutch Neuro-Oncology and Brain Metastases Clinic, which will take about one hour, you can expect to:
- Listen to your doctor’s recommendations
- Discuss any questions you may have
- Meet members of your care team, including your physician and nurse
- Meet with a member of the research team (if you are interested and if it is an option for your care)
- Leave with a clear understanding of your brain or spinal cord metastases, treatment plan and prognosis
It can be helpful to ask a friend or family member to join you at this first appointment. This person can help you get to and from appointments, take notes, help you remember to ask questions and write down your doctor’s answers, and offer emotional support.
- Patients with brain and spinal cord metastases work with neuro-oncologists and neurosurgeons from the Fred Hutch Neuro-Oncology and Brain Metastases Clinic at South Lake Union and UW Medical Center - Montlake.
- Patients with primary brain or spinal cord cancers work with neuro-oncologists and neurosurgeons from the Alvord Brain Tumor Center at UW Medical Center - Montlake.
- Patients who are receiving gamma knife treatment are treated at Harborview Medical Center.
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with a brain or spinal cord metastasis, we have a number of resources available to support you.
- Your care team includes a clinic nurse, who is available during clinic visits and by phone. Your nurse can answer questions and help you manage any side effects you may experience.
- Social workers can help you with the emotional and practical aspects of coping with illness.
- Many other support services are available through Fred Hutch, such as help with insurance and billing, transportation services, nutrition support and more.
The Fred Hutch Brain and Spine Metastases Clinic offers the most advanced treatment options to patients who have cancer that has metastasized to the brain or spinal cord. Our treatments are based on the latest available scientific evidence and clinical research.
At Fred Hutch, you receive care from a team of providers with extensive experience in your disease. Your team includes physicians, a patient care coordinator, a registered nurse, an advanced practice provider and others, based on your needs. You also have access to experts like nutritionists, social workers, acupuncturists, psychiatrists and more who specialize in supporting people with cancer or blood disorders.
Fred Hutch’s neuro-oncology team brings together specialized clinicians and scientists focused on neuro-oncology research. This means there are more treatment options at Fred Hutch than you might find elsewhere, including the chance to participate in one of many ongoing clinical trials at both Fred Hutch and UW Medicine.