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Types of brain tumor

The treatment of brain tumors differ from tumors in other locations in that most of these will undergo treatment (usually surgery) based on the imaging studies without undergoing an FNAC or Biopsy. Also the risk of treatment of brain tumors is dictated by the location of the tumor and a benign (non-cancerous) tumor in an in-accessible location may have more risk than a malignant tumor in an easily accessible location. For the purpose of this discussion all tumors occurring in the cranial cavity are being described as brain tumors.

Brain tumors can occur at all ages from a neonate to the elderly. Generally the tumors at the extremes of age are more likely to be malignant as compared to tumors occurring in the middle ages.

The tumors in the brain may arise in the substance of the brain (primary) or may spread to the brain from other tumors elsewhere in the body (metastatic). The primary tumors in the brain may be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). The metastatic tumors are always malignant.

The primary benign tumors of the brain include meningioma, schwanoma, choroid plexus papilloma, colloid cysts etc. The primary malignant brain tumors include glioblastoma multiforme, ependymoma and many others. The malignant brain tumors are divided into grades and as the grade increases the behavior of the tumor becomes more malignant and also the prognosis becomes less favorable.

The secondary/ metastatic brain tumors are tumors that have spread to the brain from cancers elsewhere in the body. The common sites from which the tumors can spread to the brain are lung, breast, kidney, skin and the gastrointestinal cancers.

Some form of treatments can be offered for most of the tumors even the metastatic brain tumors which can either control the tumor or cause relief of the symptoms caused by these tumors. The treatment options available include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Either a single modality or a combination of these are used to control the tumor.