A brain tumor quite simply is a growth or mass of abnormal cells in your brain. With brain tumors, the two most common words associated are “malignant” and “benign.” But how the tumor is treated not only depends on whether it is cancerous or not; treatment depends on whether it is a primary brain tumor, meaning it started in the brain; or secondary, meaning it has metastasized (spread) to the brain. With tumors, size and location also matter, as well as the type of tumor it is determined to be. Here are some of the more common types of brain tumors.
Malignant vs. Benign
There are no cancer cells in benign brain tumors, which usually grow at a slower rate than cancerous tumors and are for the most part operable. However, these types of brain tumors can be problematic, for example, should they press on other areas within the brain. Benign tumors aren’t always life threatening as they relate to cancer, but can become so, depending on where it is situated. When a tumor is malignant, it means it is cancerous and will be treated as such.
Grading Brain Tumors
This grading system permits your doctor to determine how to move forward with treatment.
- Grade 1. Persons with grade 1 tumors have a better chance of long-term survival, since these cells grow slowly and appear almost normal.
- Grade 2. The cells are a little less normal than grade 1 and also grow slowly. However, at grade 2, the tumor might spread, increasing the chance of reoccurrence, at which point the grade will increase.
- Grade 3. By this stage, actively growing cells invade brain tissue and start to appear abnormal and grow rapidly. After treatment, the tumor may recur.
- Grade 4. These cells are obviously abnormal and spread quickly. Stage 4 tumors are the most difficult to treat and the prognosis can be quite dire.
Commonly Treated Brain Tumors
- Approximately 80 percent of malignant brain tumors are gliomas and originate in the brain or spine within the glial cells. As these tumors start to grow, patients may experience nausea and vomiting, headaches, and seizures. Their vision may become blurred if the tumor starts to press on the optic nerve.
- The most common type of primary brain tumor in adults, meningiomas tend to develop in the lining of the brain and mainly affect the elderly. The good news – while they have a tendency to recur, even after being treated – they are benign and tend to grow slowly.
- Astrocytoma (common CNS tumor). These extremely common types of tumors vary in type and severity, and may or may not be malignant. These tumors can affect your brain function, meaning you may not be able to think as clearly as you had before the tumor, and it could affect your senses as well as create mood or personality changes. Depending on their grade, location and type, they can be treated with surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of all three.
- More common in young adults, these tumors often run in the family and are characterized by fluid-filled cysts. While comprising only about 2 percent of brain tumors, they rarely become cancerous and don’t tend to spread.
- Oligodendrogliomas are a type of glioma and occur primarily in young adults. These tumors grow in the covering that protects nerves, specifically in the cells of the covering. Oligodendrogliomas grow slowly and do not spread; in fact, there are many treatment options and those who do undergo treatment have a higher survival rate than those with other common types of brain tumors.
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