Types of Brain Tumors

Types of Brain Tumors

There are many types of brain tumors, which range from benign to malignant, and primary or secondary. The following article provides information about the various types of brain tumor.
HealthHearty Staff
Last Updated: Jan 21, 2018
The brain is the most complex part of the body. It is the seat of our intelligence. It is where all our thoughts, imagination, and dreams originate from. It is what gives us the power to plan, reason, communicate, and feel. It controls our heartbeat, breathing, temperature, blood pressure, and all other vital functions. In fact, it controls and coordinates all our physical and mental faculties. All these are accomplished by this organ which makes up just about 2% of the human body's total mass.

Since it is such a vital organ, when something goes wrong with it, it can have devastating effects on us. One of the things that may affect the brain is a brain tumor. Here is an account of the various types of brain tumors.

The brain can be affected by tumors that may be benign or malignant, and primary or secondary. Gliomas are the most common types of primary tumors which start in the glial cells of the brain. The various types of gliomas are brain stem glioma and astrocytoma. The other types of tumors of the brain that don't originate in the glial cells are meningioma, medulloblastoma, schwannoma, and germ cell tumor.

Benign and Malignant Brain Tumors

Tumors can either be benign, which means non-cancerous, or malignant, which means cancerous.

Benign Brain Tumors:
  • There are no cancer cells in benign tumors.
  • They can be removed, and once removed, they rarely grow back.
  • The tissues around benign tumors are not invaded by the cells of the tumor.
  • The cells from this tumors do not spread to any other part of the body.
  • They can grow and put pressure on the sensitive parts of the brain, resulting in serious problems. Therefore, they can be life-threatening.
  • Although rare, benign tumors may sometimes become malignant.
Malignant Brain Tumors:
  • Malignant brain tumors have cancerous cells in them.
  • Being more serious, malignant tumors can be life-threatening.
  • Malignant tumors usually grow very swiftly and invade or crowd the surrounding brain tissues.
  • Although it occurs rarely, but cancer cells can sometimes break off from a cancerous brain tumor and spread to various parts of the brain, or to the spinal cord, and sometimes to the other parts of the body too. When cancer spreads, it is known as metastasis.
Primary and Secondary Brain Tumors

Primary tumors are those that originate in the tissue of the brain. They are named according to the part of the brain or the type of cells where they originate. On the other hand, the secondary tumors originate in some other part of the body. Cancer which spreads to the brain from some other part of the body is quite different from a cancer that originates in the brain. The cancers that spread to the brain from other parts of the body, such as the breast or lung, are also known as metastatic tumor. Secondary tumors are far more common than tumors that originate in the brain.

Gliomas, which originate in glial cells, are the most common. The term "brain cancer" usually refers to a glioma. Gliomas are of many types, such as:
  • Brain Stem Glioma
  • Astrocytoma
  • Oligodendroglioma
  • Ependymoma
  • Mixed Glioma
Brain Stem Glioma
This type of brain tumor occurs in the brain stem, or the lowest portion of the brain. Usually middle-aged people and young children are affected by this condition. It is usually high-grade, or that which spreads widely all over the brain stem. It is difficult to treat this type of brain tumor successfully. Usually a biopsy is not performed to diagnose this condition.

Astrocytoma
This type of tumor arises from astrocytes, which are glial cells that are star shaped. Usually, astrocytomas affect the cerebrum in adults. Children, however, tend to get it in the cerebrum, cerebellum, or the brain stem. A grade III astrocytoma is also referred to as an anaplastic astrocytoma, while a grade IV astrocytoma is also known as a glioblastoma multiforme.

Oligodendroglioma
This is a rare type of brain tumor which arises from the cells that form the fatty tissue that cover nerves in order to protect them. The cerebrum is usually where this type of brain tumor develops. This tumor grows slowly and generally does not spread to the surrounding tissues. Middle-aged people usually develop this tumor.

Ependymoma
Ependymoma brain tumors generally begin in the cells which line the spaces inside the brain and also that occur around the spinal cord. These are the spaces which contain the cerebrospinal fluid. This is a liquid that protects the brain and spinal cord by cushioning them. Usually young adults and children develop this type of brain tumor.

Mixed Glioma
These brain tumors have more than one kind of cell. The prognosis is dependent on the type of cell along with the highest grade that is present in the tumor.

There are other types of brain tumors which do not originate in the glial cells, such as:
  • Meningioma
  • Medulloblastoma
  • Craniopharyngioma
  • Schwannoma
  • Germ Cell Tumor of the Brain
  • Pineal Region Tumor
Meningioma
This tumor occurs in the meninges, which is a membrane that covers the brain and is located directly beneath the skull. This tumor is generally benign, with a slow growth, and usually affects women in the 30-50 age range.

Medulloblastoma
Also known as a primitive neuroectodermal tumor, this usually develops in the cerebellum and is formed from abnormal cells that occur very early in life. This is the most common type of brain tumor that affects children. Moreover, it can spread to the spine via the cerebrospinal fluid.

Craniopharyngioma
This type of brain tumor grows near the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain. Although this tumor does not spread, its growth can hamper important parts of the brain, leading to serious problems. This condition is more common in children.

Schwannoma
Schwannomas develop from Schwann cells, which line the nerve located in the inner ear, which is responsible for controlling hearing and balance. Also known as an acoustic neuroma, this tumor usually affects adults.

Germ Cell Tumor of the Brain
These tumors develop from germ cells, which are reproductive cells that occur in the eggs of the ovaries or sperm in the testicles. These cells can spread to other parts of the body, forming tumors. The germinoma is the germ cell tumor that occurs most commonly in the brain, usually developing near the pineal gland, located at the center of the brain. Germ cell tumors can spread to other parts of the brain and spinal cord, and children are usually affected by it.

Pineal Region Tumor
These tumors either develop inside or near the pineal gland, which is a tiny organ that lies between the cerebrum and cerebellum. It produces melatonin, which is a hormone associated with our waking and sleeping cycle. Pineal tumors are of several types, but they rarely occur.