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Types of Brain Tumors

It is the seat of our intelligence. It is where all our thoughts, imagination, and dreams originate from. It is what gives us the power to plan, reason, communicate, and feel. It controls our heartbeat, breathing, temperature, and blood pressure. In fact, it controls and coordinates all our physical and mental faculties. All these are accomplished by an amazing organ which makes up just 2 percent of the human body’s total mass – the human brain.

Since it is such a vital organ, when something goes wrong with it, it can have devastating effects on us. One of the things that can and does strike the brain is a brain tumor. Here is an account of the various types of brain tumors.

The brain can be affected by tumors that can be benign or malignant, and primary or secondary. Gliomas are the most common types of primary tumors which start in the glial cells of the brain. The various types of gliomas are brain stem glioma and astrocytoma. The other types of tumors of the brain that don’t originate in the glial cells are meningioma, medulloblastoma, schwannoma, and germ cell tumor.

Benign and Malignant Brain Tumors

Brain tumors can either be benign, which means non-cancerous, or malignant, which means cancerous.

Benign Brain Tumors:
  • There are no cancer cells in benign brain tumors
  • Benign tumors can usually be removed
  • Once removed, they rarely grow back
  • The tissues around benign tumors are not invaded by the cells from the tumors
  • The cells from benign tumors do not spread to any other part of the body
  • Benign tumors can grow and put pressure on sensitive parts of the brain, resulting in causing serious problems
  • Benign tumors in the brain can therefore be life threatening
  • Although rare, but benign brain tumors can sometimes become malignant
Malignant Brain Tumors
  • There are no cancer cells in benign brain tumors
  • Malignant brain tumors have cancerous cells in them
  • Generally being more serious, malignant brain tumors can be life threatening
  • Malignant tumors usually grow very swiftly and invade or crowd the surrounding brain tissue
  • Although it occurs rarely, but cancer cells can sometimes break off from a cancerous brain tumor and spread to various parts of the brain, or to the spinal cord, and sometimes to the other parts of the body too
  • When cancer spreads, it is known as metastasis
Primary and Secondary Brain Tumors

Primary brain tumors are those that originate in the tissue of the brain. They are named according to the part of the brain or the type of cells where they originate. Secondary brain tumors, on the other hand, originate in some other part of the body. Cancer which spreads to the brain from some other part of the body is quite different from a cancer that originates in the brain. Doctors call cancers that spread to the brain from other parts of the body, such as the breast or lung, a metastatic tumor or secondary brain tumor. Secondary brain tumors are far more common than tumors that originate in the brain.

Types of Primary Brain Tumors

Gliomas, which originate in glial cells, are the most common kinds of primary brain tumors. The term "brain cancer" usually refers to a glioma. Gliomas are of many types, such as:
  • Brain Stem Glioma
  • Astrocytoma
  • Oligodendroglioma
  • Ependymoma
  • Mixed Glioma
Brain Stem Glioma
As is obvious from its name, this type of brain tumor occurs in the brain stem, or the lowest portion of the brain. Usually middle-aged people and young children are affected by this type of brain tumor. This brain tumor is usually high-grade, or that which spreads widely all over the brain stem. It is difficult to treat this type of brain tumor successfully. Usually a biopsy is not done to diagnose brain stem glioma in order to prevent the healthy brain tissue around it from getting damaged.

Astrocytoma
This type of tumor arises from astrocytes, which are glial cells that are star shaped. Usually, astrocytomas affect the cerebrum in adults. Children, however, tend to get it in the cerebrum, cerebellum, or the brain stem. A grade III astrocytoma is also referred to as an anaplastic astrocytoma, while a grade IV astrocytoma is also known as a glioblastoma multiforme.

Oligodendroglioma
This is a rare type of brain tumor which arises from the cells that form the fatty matter that covers nerves in order to protect them. The cerebrum is usually where this type of brain tumor occurs. This tumor grows slowly and generally does not spread to the surrounding tissues. Middle-aged people usually get this tumor.

Ependymoma
Ependymoma brain tumors generally begin in the cells which line the spaces inside the brain and also that occur around the spinal cord. These are the spaces which contain the cerebrospinal fluid. This is a liquid that protects the brain and spinal cord by cushioning them. Usually young adults and children get this type of brain tumor.

Mixed Glioma
These brain tumors have more than one kind of cell. The prognosis is dependent on the type of cell along with the highest grade that is present in the tumor.

There are other types of brain tumors which do not originate in the glial cells, such as:
  • Meningioma
  • Medulloblastoma
  • Craniopharyngioma
  • Schwannoma
  • Germ Cell Tumor of the Brain
  • Pineal Region Tumor
Meningioma
This tumor occurs in the meninges, which is a membrane that is located directly beneath the skull, covering the brain. This tumor is generally benign, with a slow growth, and usually affects women in the 30-50 age range.

Medulloblastoma
Also known as a primitive neuroectodermal tumor, this usually develops in the cerebellum and is formed from abnormal cells that occur very early in life. This is the most common type of brain tumor that affects children. It can spread to the spine via the cerebrospinal fluid.

Craniopharyngioma
This type of brain tumor grows near the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain. Although this tumor does not spread, its growth can hamper important surrounding parts of the brain, leading to serious problems. Children usually get it.

Schwannoma
Schwannomas develop from Schwann cells, which line the nerve located in the inner ear, which is responsible for controlling hearing and balance. Also known as an acoustic neuroma, this tumor usually affects adults.

Germ Cell Tumor of the Brain
These tumors develop from germ cells, which are reproductive cells that occur in the eggs of the ovaries or sperm in the testicles. These cells can spread to other parts of the body, forming tumors. The germinoma is the germ cell tumor that occurs most commonly in the brain, usually developing near the pineal gland, located at the center of the brain. Germ cell tumors can spread to other parts of the brain and spinal cord, and children are usually affected by it.

Pineal Region Tumor
As is apparent from the name, these tumors either form inside or near the pineal gland, which is a tiny organ that lies between the cerebrum and cerebellum. It produces melatonin, which is a hormone associated with our waking and sleeping cycle. Pineal tumors are of several types, but they rarely occur.


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