Brain Tumors

Any mass or growth of abnormal cells occurring in the brain tissue, skull, supportive tissue around the brain, cranial nerves, or the pituitary or pineal gland can be a brain tumor. Primary tumors are those that develop in the brain; secondary brain tumors originate somewhere else in the body and spread to the brain.

Primary brain tumors

Primary tumors may be malignant or nonmalignant.

Malignant, or high-grade, tumors contain cancer cells. They grow rapidly and invade the healthy tissue around them. Eventually, a malignant tumor will crowd out or destroy the normal cells and interfere with their function. Malignant tumors are life-threatening.

Nonmalignant, or low-grade, tumors may also invade surrounding tissue, or coexist with normal cells. Despite this they can cause severe neurologic impairment, such as seizures, behavioral changes and memory loss, and can interfere with normal, vital brain functions. Some low-grade brain tumors are life-threatening.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has dozens of classifications for brain tumors, based on where in the brain they arise and their characteristic growth pattern. Each type of tumor has a recommended, accepted treatment regimen and a different prognosis.

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