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Types of Brain Tumors

The different brain tumor types include benign, malignant, primary, and secondary. The most common types of primary tumors in the brain are gliomas, which begin in glial cells. Kinds of gliomas include astrocytoma and brain stem glioma. Other brain tumors that do not start in the glial cells include medulloblastoma, meningioma, germ cell tumor, and schwannoma.

Types of Brain Tumors: An Introduction

Cancer begins in cells, which are the building blocks that make up tissues. Tissues make up the organs of the body. Normally, cells grow and divide to form new cells as the body needs them. When cells grow old, they die, and new cells take their place. Sometimes, however, this orderly process goes wrong -- new cells form when the body does not need them, and old cells do not die when they should. These extra cells can form a mass of tissue called a growth or a tumor.

Brain Tumor Types: Benign Versus Malignant

Brain tumors can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
Key information about benign brain tumors is as follows:
  • Benign brain tumors do not contain cancer cells
  • Usually, benign brain tumors can be removed
  • Benign brain tumors seldom grow back
  • Cells from benign tumors do not invade tissues around them or spread to other parts of the body
  • Benign tumors can press on sensitive areas of the brain and cause serious health problems
  • Unlike benign tumors in most other parts of the body, benign brain tumors can be life-threatening
  • In rare cases, a benign brain tumor may become malignant.
Malignant brain tumors contain cancer cells. Key information about these types of brain tumors is as follows:
  • Malignant brain tumors are generally more serious and can be life-threatening.
  • Malignant brain tumors are likely to grow rapidly and crowd or invade the surrounding healthy brain tissue.
  • In rare cases, cancer cells may break away from a malignant brain tumor and spread to other parts of the brain, to the spinal cord, or even to other parts of the body. The spread of cancer is called metastasis.
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