Organs are made of tissues and tissues are made of cells. Cancer starts within the cells. Normally, cells grow and reproduce when necessary. They die when they get older and new cells are produced for their place. Sometimes, this process starts to function abnormally. New cells start to reproduce uncontrollably even though the body does not need to and old cells don’t die on time. This causes cells of that tissue to accumulate and reproduce more than necessary, forming masses and cysts. This is called a tumor.
Are all brain tumors malignant?
Brain tumors can be malignant or benign. Tumors must be removed from the body whether it is malignant or benign. There is no cancer cell in benign brain tumors and when they are detected and surgically removed, they don’t grow back (that’s why they are called benign). Malignant tumors, on the other hand, can grow back even if they are excised totally. The most efficient way to increase survival in malignant tumors is complete surgical removal (radiation therapy and chemotherapy can be administered afterwards).
Benign brain tumors:
- Can be removed with surgery and don’t come up afterwards (It is important to completely remove the tumor during surgery)
- Don’t invade the surrounding brain tissue. However they can become life-threatening by causing compression due to their sizes.
- A benign brain tumor can very rarely transform into a malignant brain tumor. So, when detected, surgical removal is the best option.
Malignant brain tumors:
- Contain cancer cells that grow abnormally and rapidly.
- Grow rapidly and invade surrounding healthy tissues.
- Very rarely, they can spread to spinal cord or other organs of the body. This is called metastasis.
Can a cancer formed elsewhere in the body cause brain tumors?
This type of cancer is called metastatic brain tumor. Metastatic brain tumors are more common than primary brain tumors. Lung and breast cancer are the most frequent types of cancer that metastasize into brain.
Are there different types of tumors that can form in the brain?
Yes. Tumors arising from the brain’s own tissues, primary brain tumors, are named according to the tissue they are derived from. The most common primary brain tumors are gliomas. Gliomas arise from glial cells that support actual nerve cells. There are many types of gliomas:
- Glioblastoma (Astrocytoma): This tumor originate from glial cells shaped like a star. They usually appear in the brain in adult patients while cerebellum is more common in children.
- Ependymoma: This tumor that originates from cells that lines the cavities within brain and spinal cord is seen more frequently in children and young adults.
- Oligodendroglioma: This very rare tumor originates from cell that covers nerves and secretes fatty substances that protect them. Oligodendrogliomas grow very slowly and don’t invade surrounding tissues.
Other brain tumors are listed below:
- Pituitary tumors: These tumors are found in the pituitary gland located in the base of the skull. They are most frequently seen in young adults.
- Medulloblastoma: This tumor that is generally located in the cerebellum is the most common brain tumor in children.
- Meningioma: This tumor originating from membranes that surround the brain usually grow slowly and don’t grow back after they are surgically removed.
- Acoustic neuroma: This tumor originating from Schwann cells covering nerve cells in inner ear are mostly seen in adult population.
- Craniopharyngioma: This is seen more commonly in children and originates from tissues around the pituitary gland.
- Germ cell tumor: These tumors are observed in patients younger than 30 years. The most common type is germinomas.
- Pineal region tumors: Very rare tumors originating from pineal gland located between the brain and cerebellum.