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Brain Tumor FAQs

What are symptoms of a brain tumor?

Brain tumor symptoms depend on the size of and location of the tumor. Find out the most common brain tumor symptoms, based on the tumor's location in the brain.

What are the different types of brain tumors?

  • Glioma: The most common type of primary brain tumor in adults and children. The different types of glioma include the following:
    • Astrocytoma
    • Brain stem gliomas
    • Epenymomas
    • Oligodendrogliomas
    • Optic nerve glioma
  • Metastatic tumors: Tumors that begin to grow in another part of the body, and then spread to the brain through the bloodstream.
  • Meningioma: Slow growing and may exist for years before being detected. Most common in people in their 40s and 50s.
  • Schwannoma: Benign tumors that can cause loss of hearing, loss of balance or problems with weakness on one side of the face.
  • Pituitary tumor: Often benign tumors on the pituitary gland, which produces hormones that control other glands in the body.
  • Primitive neuroectodermal tumors (PNET): Fast-growing, often malignant tumors that can occur anywhere in the brain.
  • Medulloblastoma: A type of PNET near the cerebellum that grows quickly and can spread to other areas of the central nervous system, especially around the spine.
  • Craniopharyngioma: Benign tumors at the base of the brain that are difficult to remove.
  • Pineal region tumors: Tumors near the pineal gland, which helps control sleep and wake cycles. Tumors that can be found in this area include the following:
    • Germ cell tumors
    • Gliomas
    • Pineal blastomas

What causes brain tumors?

While the direct cause of brain tumors is still unknown, experts do know that the majority of brain tumors stem from abnormal genes that cause uncontrolled cell growth.

Some risk factors for developing a brain tumor include the following:

  • Genetic conditions
    People with these genetic conditions have an increased risk for developing tumors in the central nervous system, including brain tumors:
  • Chemical exposure
    Some chemicals may change the structure of a gene that protects the body from diseases and cancers, such as brain tumors. However, researchers don’t know which, if any, chemical toxins are related to an increase in brain tumors. Some possible people at risk include the following:
    • Chemists
    • Workers in oil refining or rubber manufacturing

Researchers are also currently studying parents of children who have brain tumors and their past exposure to certain chemicals.

  • Past radiation therapy
    People who have received radiation therapy to their head as part of treatment for other cancers have an increased risk for developing a brain tumor.

How does a doctor diagnose a brain tumor?

Your doctor at Rush will first do a complete medical history and physical exam. Your doctor may then order or perform some of the following diagnostic procedures:

  • Neurological exam that tests your reflexes, muscle strength, eye and mouth movement, coordination, alertness.
  • Imaging tests that produces detailed images of organs and other parts of your body, including the following:
    • Angiogram
    • Bone scan
    • Computed tomography (CT) scan
    • Lumbar puncture (spinal tap)
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
    • Myelogram
    • X-ray

What is the treatment for brain tumors?

Many people get a combination of one or more of these treatment options:

What are brain tumor grades?

If you have been diagnosed with a brain tumor, your doctor will determine the “grade” of your tumor. The grade describes how much of the cells in the tumor look healthy when viewed under a microscope. Generally, the lower the grade, the better your prognosis or chance of recovery.

  • Grade I: Tissue is noncancerous (benign) with nearly normal looking cells, slow growing
  • Grade II: Tissue is cancerous (malignant) with less normal looking cells, slow growing
  • Grade III: Tissue is malignant with very abnormal looking cells, cells actively growing
  • Grade IV: Tissue is malignant with cells that are mostly abnormal, growing quickly