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Brain Tumor Symptoms, Signs, Types, Causes, Treatments, and Survival Rates

Brain tumor (primary) definition and facts*

*Brain tumor facts medically edited by: breathing (brain stem), activity like moving muscles to walk (cerebellum) and your senses like sight and our memory, emotions, thinking and personality (cerebrum).

  • 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 tissue. If a cancerous tumor starts elsewhere in the body, it can spread cancer cells, which grow in the brain. These type of tumors are called secondary or metastatic brain tumors.
  • Brain tumors can occur at any age.
  • Researchers and doctors do not know exact cause of brain tumors.
  • Risk factors include exposure to ionizing radiation and family history of brain tumors.
  • The signs symptoms of brain tumors depend on their size, type, and location. The most common signs symptoms include headaches; numbness or tingling in the arms or legs; seizures; memory problems; mood and personality changes; balance and walking problems; nausea and vomiting; or changes in speech, vision, or hearing.
  • Doctors group brain tumors are classified by grade (grade I, grade II, grade III, or grade IV -the most severe). The grade is determined by 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.
  • The most common types of primary brain tumors among adults are astrocytoma, meningiom (a tumor that arises from the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord) 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.
  • Diagnosis of a brain tumor is done by a neurologic exam (by a neurologist or neurosurgeon), CT (computer tomography scan) and/or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and other tests like an angiogram, spinal tap and biopsy. Your diagnosis helps predict the treatment.
  • Neurologists base the treatment of brain tumors on the type, location, and size of the tumor, your health, and age. Treatment options may include surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy (or a combination of treatments).
  • Supportive care is important before, during and after treatment to minimize symptoms and to improve your quality of life.
    Some patients can qualify for clinical trials. Contact information is provided at the end of this article.
  • Reference: Lo, BM. "Brain Neoplasms." Medscape. Updated Nov 09, 2015.

    What are the parts of the brain?

    The brain is a soft, spongy mass of tissue. It is protected by:

    • The bones of the skull
    • Three thin layers of tissue (meninges)
    • Watery fluid (cerebrospinal fluid) that flows through spaces between the meninges and through spaces (ventricles) within the brain.

    The brain directs the things we choose to do (like walking and talking) and the things our body does without thinking (like breathing). The brain is also in charge of our senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell), memory, emotions, and personality.

    A network of nerves carries messages back and forth between the brain and the rest of the body. Some nerves go directly from the brain to the eyes, ears, and other parts of the head. Other nerves run through the spinal cord to connect the brain with the other parts of the body.

    Within the brain and spinal cord, glial cells surround nerve cells and hold them in place.

    The three major parts of the brain control different activities:

    • Cerebrum: The cerebrum uses information from our senses to tell us what is going on around us and tells our body how to respond. It controls reading, thinking, learning, speech, and emotions.

    The cerebrum is divided into the left and right cerebral hemispheres. The right hemisphere controls the muscles on the left side of the body. The left hemisphere controls the muscles on the right side of the body.

    • Cerebellum: The cerebellum controls balance for walking and standing, and other complex actions.
    • Brain stem: The brain stem connects the brain with the spinal cord. It controls breathing, body temperature, blood pressure, and other basic body functions.
    Picture of the Brain and Nearby Structures
    This picture shows the brain and nearby structures.
    Picture of the Major Parts of the Brain
    This picture shows the major parts of the brain.
    Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/10/2017


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