Conditions InDepth: Brain Tumors
by Michael Jubinville, MPH
Brain tumors are the not same as those found in other parts of the body. A tumor can be benign or malignant. A benign tumor is not cancer. It will not spread to other parts of the body. But, it can still grow and put pressure on the brain. This pressure may damage healthy tissue and cause problems with how the brain works. Depending on where it is, pressure can cause problems with breathing, heart rate, or cause death.
Malignant tumors grow in an irregular way. They invade tissue around them. Brain tumors rarely spread to other parts of the body. But, they can spread throughout the brain. Damage caused by malignant tumors can also cause disability and death.
Normal Anatomy and the Development of Brain Tumors
The brain and spinal cord make up the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS controls how the body works. It reads information from the senses. It also controls body temperature, sleep patterns, and movement. The brain is also the center for memory, learning, and emotions.
The 3 main parts are
Other nervous system structures:
Cell division and cell death are normal. It’s meant to replace old or damaged cells. Sometimes this can continue after it's supposed to stop. This extra growth forms a tumor. It’s not clear exactly what causes these problems. It’s likely a mix of genes and the environment.
Types of Brain Tumors
There are 2 main types:
The problems you have and how to treat them depend on where the tumor is. Most are named for the place they start:
What are the risk factors for brain tumor?
What are the symptoms of brain tumor?
How is brain tumor diagnosed?
What are the treatments for brain tumor?
Are there screening tests for brain tumor?
Can brain tumor be prevented?
What questions should I ask my doctor?
What is it like to live with brain tumor?
Where can I get more information about brain tumor?
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Brain and spinal cord tumors in adults. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/brain-spinal-cord-tumors-adults.html. Accessed August 8, 2018.
Brain and spinal cord tumors in children. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/brain-spinal-cord-tumors-children.html. Accessed August 8, 2018.
General information about childhood brain and spinal cord tumors. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/brain/patient/child-brain-treatment-pdq. Updated July 5, 2018. Accessed August 8, 2018.
General information about adult central nervous system tumors. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/brain/patient/adult-brain-treatment-pdq. Updated July 5, 2018. Accessed August 8, 2018.
Meningioma. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116926/Meningioma. Updated January 19, 2017. Accessed August 8, 2018.
Overview of brain tumors in children. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pediatrics/pediatric-cancers/overview-of-brain-tumors-in-children. Updated August 2015. Accessed August 8, 2018.
Overview of intracranial tumors. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic-disorders/intracranial-and-spinal-tumors/overview-of-intracranial-tumors. Updated June 2018. Accessed August 8, 2018.
Last reviewed June 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 8/8/2018
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