Brain tumors

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A brain tumor is an abnormal growth of cells inside the brain or skull; some are benign, others malignant. Tumors can grow from the brain tissue itself (primary), or cancer from elsewhere in the body can spread to the brain (metastasis). Treatment options vary depending on the tumor type, size and location. Treatment goals may be curative or focus on relieving symptoms. Many of the 120 types of brain tumors can be successfully treated. New therapies are improving the life span and quality of life for many people.

Normal cells grow in a controlled manner as new cells replace old or damaged ones. For reasons not fully understood, tumor cells reproduce uncontrollably.

A primary brain tumor is an abnormal growth that starts in the brain and usually does not spread to other parts of the body. Primary brain tumors may be benign or malignant.

A benign brain tumor grows slowly, has distinct boundaries, and rarely spreads. Although its cells are not malignant, benign tumors can be life threatening if located in a vital area.

A malignant brain tumor grows quickly, has irregular boundaries, and spreads to nearby brain areas. Although they are often called brain cancer, malignant brain tumors do not fit the definition of cancer because they do not spread to organs outside the brain and spine.

Metastatic (secondary) brain tumors begin as cancer elsewhere in the body and spread to the brain. They form when cancer cells are carried in the blood stream. The most common cancers that spread to the brain are lung and breast.


Tumors can affect the brain by destroying normal tissue, compressing normal tissue, or increasing intracranial pressure. Symptoms vary depending on the tumor’s type, size, and location in the brain . General symptoms include:

headaches that tend to worsen in the morning


stumbling, dizziness, difficulty walking

speech problems (e.g., difficulty finding the right word)

vision problems, abnormal eye movements

weakness on one side of the body

increased intracranial pressure, which causes drowsiness, headaches, nausea and vomiting, sluggish responses


Brain tumors are more common in children and older adults, although people of any age can develop a brain tumor. Gender. In general, men are more likely than women to develop a brain tumor. However, some specific types of brain tumors, such as meningioma, are more common in women.

Risk factors

Brain Tumor: Risk Factors

Age. Brain tumors are more common in children and older adults, although people of any age can develop a brain tumor.

Gender. ...

Home and work exposures. ...

Family history. ...

Exposure to infections, viruses, and allergens. ...

Electromagnetic fields. ...

Race and ethnicity. ...

Ionizing radiation.

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Loss of some brain capacity or mental function.




Hearing loss.

Speech problems.

Muscle paralysis.


Unfortunately, you can’t prevent a brain tumor. You can reduce your risk of developing a brain tumor by avoiding environmental hazards such as smoking and excessive radiation exposure.

If you have a first-degree biological relative (sibling or parent) who has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, it’s important to tell your healthcare provider. They may recommend genetic counseling to see if you have an inherited genetic syndrome that’s associated with brain tumors.