Brain Tumor and Brain Cancer—Adult

Definition

A brain tumor is the presence of cancer cells in the brain. There are 2 main types of brain tumors:
  • Primary—A tumor that arises in the brain. It can be either malignant or benign. A small benign tumor in a bad location can cause significant problems.
  • Secondary—A tumor that spreads to the brain from another cancerous site in the body. All secondary tumors are malignant and metastatic.
Brain Tumor
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Causes

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.The cause of most primary brain tumors is unknown, but it is probably a combination of genetics and environment. Secondary brain tumors are caused by cancer that spreads to the brain from another site in the body.

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your chance of a brain tumor 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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