Conditions InDepth: Brain Tumors
A brain tumor occurs when cells grow uncontrollably in the brain. Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. If cells divide uncontrollably, they form a mass of tissue. The mass is called a growth or tumor. The term cancer usually refers to
malignant tumors. These can invade nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body. A
does not spread. But, it can continue to grow and press structures near it, causing symptoms.
Malignant tumors can be fatal if not treated. The ability to cure a cancer depends on patient and tumor-related features. Patient-related features include:
- Overall health
- Willingness to undergo treatment
Tumor-related features include:
- Type of cancer
- Site of the origin of the cancer
- How advanced the disease is when it is detected
- Tumor’s response to therapy
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Brain tumors can be either primary or secondary.
These are tumors which start in the brain or its coverings.
Secondary tumors begin in an organ other than the brain. They travel to the brain, usually through the blood. All secondary tumors are malignant.
Other tumors, such as pituitary adenomas, neuromas, spinal cord tumors, and hydatid cysts, are not covered in this report.
Primary brain tumors are the second most common cancer in children and young adults, second only to leukemia. They are the third most common cancer in people between the ages of 15 and 34, fourth between the ages of 35 to 54, and much less common in older adults, where metastatic tumors are more common.
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. Updated May 28, 2013. Accessed June 4, 2013.
Brain tumors. American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Available at:
. Accessed June 4, 2013.
Brain tumor. National Cancer Institute website. Available at:
Accessed June 4, 2013.