Brain Tumor and Brain Cancer—Adult

Definition

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 benign tumor does not spread. But, it can continue to grow and press structures near it, causing symptoms. There are two main types of brain tumors:
  • Primary brain cancer—This begins in the brain. It can be either malignant or benign. A small benign tumor in a bad location can cause significant problems.
  • Secondary or metastatic brain cancer—This has spread to the brain from another site in the body. All metastatic tumors are malignant.
Brain Tumor
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Causes

The cause of most primary brain cancers is unknown. Secondary brain cancer is caused by the cancer spreading to the brain from another site.

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your chance of developing brain tumors include:
  • Radiation
  • A condition that affects the immune system
  • Family history of certain types of cancer
Any cancer in the body can spread to the brain. The most common tumors that may spread to the brain include:

Symptoms

Symptoms depend on the tumor's size and location. A growing tumor will often have fluid build-up around it. This is called edema. Edema puts pressure on the brain. Symptoms may develop gradually or rapidly. Symptoms may include:
  • Headache—Most headaches are not caused by brain tumors. Headaches due to brain tumors may have the following features:
    • Worsens over a period of weeks to months
    • Worse in the morning or causes you to wake during the night
    • Different than a normal headache
    • Worsens with change of posture, straining, or coughing
  • Seizures
  • Nausea or vomiting, especially early morning vomiting
  • Weakness in arms and/or legs
  • Loss of sensation in arms and/or legs
  • Difficulty walking
  • Hearing loss or vision loss, including double vision
  • Speech problems
  • Drowsiness
  • Memory problems
  • Personality changes

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