Brain Tumors

Primary brain tumors can be either malignant (contain cancer cells) or benign (do not contain cancer cells). A primary brain tumor is a tumor which begins in the brain. If a cancerous tumor which starts elsewhere in the body sends cells which end up growing in the brain, such tumors are then called secondary or metastatic brain tumors. This discussion is focused on primary brain tumors.

  • Brain tumors can occur at any age.
  • The exact cause of brain tumors is not clear.
  • The symptoms of brain tumors depend on their size, type, and location.
  • The most common symptoms of brain tumors include headaches; numbness or tingling in the arms or legs; seizures, memory problems; mood and personality changes; balance and walking problems; nausea and vomiting; changes in speech, vision, or hearing.
  • Physicians group brain tumors by grade (the way the cells look under a microscope). The higher the grade number, the more abnormal the cells appear and the more aggressively the tumor usually behaves.
  • Brain tumors are classified as grade I, grade II, or grade III, or grade IV
  • The most common type of primary brain tumors among adults are astrocytoma, meningioma, and oligodendroglioma.
  • The most common type of primary brain tumors in children are medulloblastoma, grade I or II astrocytoma, (or glioma) ependymoma, and brain stem glioma.
  • Studies have found risk factors for brain tumors to include ionizing radiation from high dose X-rays (for example, radiation therapy where the machine is aimed at the head), and family history.
  • Brain tumors are diagnosed by the doctor based on the results of a medical history and physical examination and results of a variety of specialized tests of the brain and nervous system.
  • Treatment of a brain tumor depends on the type, location, and size of the tumor, as well as the age and health of the patient.
  • Options for brain tumor treatment include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy (or a combination of treatments).