What Is a Brain Tumor?

The tumors that are found in the brain can be divided into two types: metastatic tumors are tumors that spread from cancer elsewhere in the body to the brain, and primary tumors are those that arise from cells that reside in the brain and spine. Both types can have similar symptoms, but they are treated differently.

There are many different types of tumors that can affect the brain and nervous system. Brain tumors can be either benign (slow growing or non-cancerous) or malignant (fast growing or cancerous). However, because of a tumor’s location in the brain, even a benign brain tumor requires prompt evaluation.

The most common types of brain tumors include:

  • Lymphoma – This cancer targets the lymphatic system, which fights diseases that arise in the body and includes the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus gland and bone marrow. The main types of lymphoma are Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • Sarcoma – This refers to a group of cancers that occur in bones, fat, muscle and other connective tissues in the body.
  • Meningiomas – These tumors are often benign and occur in the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord.
  • Glioblastoma – A type of tumor that grows rapidly, putting pressure on other parts of the brain. These tumors can cause dizziness, headaches and blurred vision.
  • Oligodendrogliomas – This slow-growing tumor typically occurs in young adults and often causes seizures.
  • Ependymomas – These benign tumors are more common in children than adults and can cause severe headaches, vomiting and vision loss.
  • Astrocytomas – Tumors of this type also tend to not spread to other parts of the body and can range from benign to malignant.
  • Acoustic neuromas – Also called vestibular schwannomas, these tumors are typically benign and occur on a nerve in the brain close to the ears. These tumors can affect balance and produce a ringing in the ears.
  • Pituitary adenoma – This is a cancer of the pituitary gland, located between the brain and nasal passages. It can cause headaches, hormonal dysfunction and nerve damage.