What to know about Brain Tumors

Did you know that there are over 120 types of brain and central nervous system tumors? These tumors can be malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous) and in either case, can be life-threatening. They form in different areas, develop from different cell types, and have different treatment options.

The brain plays a central role in the control of most bodily functions, including awareness, movements, sensations, thoughts, speech, and memory. Brain tumors are dangerous because they can put pressure on healthy parts of the brain or spread into those areas. They can cause problems if they block the flow of fluid around the brain, which can lead to an increase in pressure inside the skull. Some types of tumors can spread through the spinal fluid to distant areas of the brain or the spine.

Here’s a list of important facts you need to know about brain tumors:

1. Developing brain cancer is rare.

primary malignant brain tumor is a rare type of cancer accounting for only about 1.4% of all new cancer cases in the U.S.  The most common brain tumors are known as secondary tumors, meaning they have metastasized, or spread, to the brain from other parts of the body such as the lungs, breasts, colon, or prostate.

2. One-third of all brain tumors are cancerous.

Of the nearly 80,000 brain tumors diagnosed in the U.S. each year, approximately 1/3 of them are considered malignant or cancerous. Primary malignant brain tumors are those tumors that start in the brain. In adults, secondary brain tumors—meaning they have metastasized, or spread, to the brain from other parts of the body such as the lungs, breasts, or colon—are much more common than primary tumors.

3. The cause of brain cancer is usually unknown.

Most people diagnosed with a primary brain tumor do not have any known risk factors. However, certain risk factors and genetic conditions have been shown to increase a person’s chances of developing one, including:

  • The risk of a brain tumor increases as you age.
  • People who have been exposed to ionizing radiation—such as radiation therapy used to treat cancer and radiation exposure caused by atomic bombs– have an increased risk of brain tumor.
  • Rare genetic disorders like Von Hippel-Lindau disease, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, and Neurofibromatosis (NF1 and NF2) may raise the risk of developing certain types of brain tumors. Otherwise, there is little evidence that brain cancer runs in families.

4. Brain tumors don’t typically have obvious symptoms.

Headaches that get worse over time are a symptom of many ailments including brain tumors. Other symptoms may include personality changes, eye weakness, nausea or vomiting, difficulty speaking or comprehending, and short-term memory loss.

Even benign or non-cancerous tumors can be serious and life-threatening. If you experience these symptoms, speak with your doctor right away. 

5. Brain tumors can occur at any age.

Primary brain tumors—those that begin in the brain—can develop at any age, but they are most common in children and older adults. While brain tumors are one of the most common cancers occurring in children 0-14 years, the average age of diagnosis is 59 years.

6. Survival rates vary.

Survival after diagnosis with a brain tumor varies significantly by age, tumor type, location, and molecular markers. Some types of brain cancer, such as meningioma, anaplastic ependymoma, and oligodendroglioma, are highly treatable, while others are less responsive to treatment.

One of the most important things that you can do is to seek care and a second opinion from people that spend all of their time treating brain cancer.

7. Limited treatment options.

There have only been 4 FDA-approved drugs—and one device— to treat brain tumors in the past 30 years. For many tumor types, surgery and radiation therapy remain the standard of care. Chemotherapy or targeted treatments may also be prescribed.

We are here for you

If you have concerns about a cancer diagnosis, please call our oncology department at (561) 721-6891 and make a consultation with Dr. Michael Hall, Radiation Oncologist at The Medical Group of South Florida. Dr. Hall can help walk you through the various treatment options available to your unique situation.

Book a consultation with Dr. Hall and start beating cancer today.

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