What Are the Different Types of Brain Cancer?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

There are many different kinds of brain cancer, most of which involve the development of cancerous tumors in the brain, on the brain stem, or at the top of the spine. Brain cancer is divided into two major types, called primary and metastatic, which are defined by the initial origin of the cancer. Within these categories, there are dozens of different types of brain cancer, defined by specific growth characteristics and resultant symptoms. Some of the major types of brain cancer include menengioma, glioblastoma multiforme, and medulloblastoma.

Brain cancer at stages one and two can usually be removed by surgeons.
Brain cancer at stages one and two can usually be removed by surgeons.

When considering the different types of brain cancer, one of the most important distinguishing features is the origin of the cancer. Primary brain cancer originates in the brain, and may not be present anywhere else in the body. Metastatic or secondary brain cancer is the result of a cancerous infection that has spread from another site in the body, such as the breasts or lungs. Secondary brain cancer is typically seen in patients with severely advanced forms of other cancers.

Secondary brain cancer is the result of a cancerous infection that has spread from another site in the body, such as the breasts.
Secondary brain cancer is the result of a cancerous infection that has spread from another site in the body, such as the breasts.

One of the most common primary types of brain cancer is menengioma. These tumors grow in the tissues surrounding the brain, and many are actually benign in nature. Malignant memengiomas typically occur in older adults, and are more likely to affect women than men. While some patients may experience no symptoms, many people with menengioma experience symptoms related to the compression caused by the tumor pressing on the tissue, such as nausea, unusual headaches, and vision changes. Treatments for menengioma depend on the size and nature of the tumor, but surgery is frequently the best option.

In some cases, neurosurgery is a good option for treating gliomas, which are primary tumors that originate in the brain or spinal cord.
In some cases, neurosurgery is a good option for treating gliomas, which are primary tumors that originate in the brain or spinal cord.

Glioblastoma multiforme is a highly advanced and invasive form of brain cancer that grows on the protective glial cells that surround nerve cells in the brain. Though rare overall, glioblastoma multiforme is one of the most common types of brain cancer. Prognosis for this type of tumor is poor, since it is resistant to many traditional cancer treatments, such as radiation. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation may all be treatment options, but overall, this form of cancer has a fairly low survival rate. Symptoms of glioblastoma multiforme are similar to those for menengioma.

Prognosis for glioblastoma multiforme is generally poor.
Prognosis for glioblastoma multiforme is generally poor.

Medulloblastoma is one of the most common types of brain cancer seen in children, though it may occur in adults occasionally. Tumors tend to grow from undeveloped brain cells, and may grow near the top of the spinal cord. Headaches, sleepiness, and optic nerve abnormalities may be symptoms of this condition. Treatment usually involves a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Surgery may be unable to fully remove the tumor, which can lead to recurrence in some cases.

The origin of brain cancer determines its type.
The origin of brain cancer determines its type.
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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