Brain Tumor Facts

A brain tumor is an abnormal growth of tissue in the brain. It may be classified as either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Learn More ›

Symptoms: Brain Cancer

  • Primary brain cancer begins growing in the brain itself. Primary brain cancer is the rarest type of brain cancer. It can spread and invade healthy tissues in the brain and spinal cord but rarely spreads to other parts of the body. Each year about 19,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with primary brain cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute (Source: NCI).

  • Secondary brain cancer is more common than primary brain cancer. Secondary brain cancer is caused by a cancer that has begun in another part of the body, such as in the lung, breast, kidney, skin or prostate that spreads to the brain. Secondary brain cancer is also called metastatic brain cancer.

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Types of Treatment for Brain Tumors

Different types of brain tumor treatments have different goals. Here is a list of treatments and their goals.

  • Surgery. The goal of surgery is to remove the tumor while leaving as much of the brain as possible intact. It is often the first step in treatment for most brain tumors. Surgery establishes an exact diagnosis. It also reduces the tumor volume. Sometimes the surgeon cannot remove the whole tumor because it is near vital brain structures. Or, if the tumor has invaded the space like fingers of a glove, it is very difficult to cut out.

  • Radiation therapy. The goal of radiation is to kill cancer cells using X-rays. Doctors may use this treatment to shrink a tumor before surgery or to try to get rid of any cancer cells left after surgery. Radiation therapy may also be used as the main treatment if surgery is not a good option, or to help relieve symptoms caused by a tumor. 

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Living with: Coping With the Cognitive Effects of Brain Tumors

Elaine's story is not unique. Brain tumors may affect your cognition, which is your ability to think, reason, and remember. Many people with brain tumors have problems with these kinds of cognition skills as well.

  • Concentration

  • Language skills

  • Memory

Treatment for the tumor, such as chemotherapy, may also harm the brain and cause cognitive problems. Some refer to this as "chemo brain." Talk with your doctor to find out if your treatment might do this. These are some treatments that can cause damage.

  • Surgery

  • Radiation

  • Chemotherapy

According to clinical experts, cognitive problems may affect both basic and advanced functions.

  • Basic functions are thought, attention, and impulsive behavior

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Your Guide to Brain Cancer

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