Being diagnosed with a brain tumor can be a very frightening and confusing time, but not all tumors mean the worst. There are more than 120 different types of brain tumors and not all of them are cancerous, with many being rare. Receiving timely and appropriate diagnosis and treatment is paramount to your overall health and a successful recovery.
A brain tumor is a mass of tissue formed from abnormal cell growth in the brain. Brain tumors are usually named after the type of cells they develop from and can be categorized as primary or metastatic tumors. Primary tumors originate in the brain and metastatic tumors originate elsewhere in the body and spread to the brain, usually through the bloodstream.
Not all brain tumors are malignant (cancerous). Some are benign (non-cancerous), which means they don’t spread to other parts of the body like cancers can. Benign tumors can, however, still cause health problems because they can press on important areas of the brain or increase pressure inside the brain. Malignant brain tumors can spread into surrounding brain tissue and into the spinal cord. The risk of getting a brain tumor generally increases with age, but people of all ages can get it, including children.
There are a number of rare types of brain tumors, including:
Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumors (ATRTs)
An ATRT is a very rare and fast-growing malignant tumor that usually occurs in the brain but can spread to the spinal cord. It can affect individuals of any age group and is slightly more common in males. This type of tumor often results from changes in a particular gene that normally makes proteins to stop tumor growth, but ATRT prevents the gene from working properly, meaning tumor growth is uncontrolled. Symptoms can include morning headaches, vomiting, loss of balance, and changes in activity levels. In infants, there can be a visible increase in head size. Because these tumors are fast growing, symptoms can worsen quickly.
Choroid Plexus Tumor
Both adults and children can get choroid plexus tumors, but they are more common in children in the first year of life. Genetic changes have been linked to the formation of some choroid plexus tumors, but oftentimes, the cause is unknown. The tumors are grouped in three grades based on their characteristics, which include grade I (slow growing tumor cells) to grade III (fast growing malignant tumors). Symptoms depend on the location of the tumor, but individuals with choroid plexus tumors may have hydrocephalus (an accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid within the brain) as a result, leading to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, headaches, irritability, vision problems, tiredness, and seizures.
Diffuse Midline Gliomas
Diffuse midline gliomas are fast growing malignant tumors that form in the brainstem, thalamus, spinal cord, and cerebellum. Their exact cause is unknown, but individuals with certain hereditary gene changes can be at an increased risk. They occur in both children and adults but are more common in children. Symptoms can include double vision, problems swallowing, body weakness on one or both sides, and loss of balance.
Gliosarcoma is a rare type of glioma (a type of tumor that starts in the glial cells of the brain or spine). They are fast growing malignant tumors that are usually found along the surface of the brain. They often occur in individuals ages 40-60 but can occur at any age. Previous exposure to radiation and certain hereditary gene changes are linked to a higher chance of developing gliosarcoma. Symptoms can include headaches, seizures, problems with memory, thinking, balance and movement, and weakness.
Pineal Region Tumors
Pineal region tumors occur in the center of the brain, but they can spread to other areas in the central nervous system. They are graded from slow growing low-grade tumors (grade I) to malignant fast-growing tumors (grade IV). Pineal region tumors are more common in children, young adults, and middle aged adults. Symptoms depend on the location of the tumor, but there may be increased pressure inside the skull leading to symptoms of hydrocephalus.
There are also other rare types of brain tumors, including ependymoma, gliomatosis cerebri, medulloblastoma, meningioma, oligodendroglioma, pleomorphic xanthoastrocytoma (PXA), anaplastic pleomorphic xanthoastrocytoma (APXA), and primitive neuro-ectodermal tumors (PNET).
Neurosurgery in Colorado
At Front Range Spine and Neurosurgery, our surgeons have extensive training and experience dealing with complex cranial conditions and tumors. They are experts with a wealth of knowledge in all areas of spine and neurosurgery and use advanced microsurgical treatments for a multitude of neurological conditions.
If you have concerns about a condition, such as a tumor, and would like some guidance, or if you would like to find out more about the services we provide, call the friendly staff at Front Range Spine and Neurosurgery today at (303) 790-1800 or you can use our online request an appointment form. We look forward to assisting you.