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Brain Cancer

A graphical image showing a X-ray of a person with a brain tumor highlighted in red
Abnormal cells can grow anywhere in the body, including in the brain. It is possible to have a benign tumor in the brain which means it doesn’t contain cancer cells.

Where do the tumors start?

  • Primary Brain Tumors are tumors that start in the brain and generally, considered low grade and slow growing.
  • Secondary Brain Tumors started elsewhere in the body and then spread to the brain. These are more common type of brain tumors.

Some risk factors for Brain Cancer are:

Age: Although anyone can develop a brain tumor, they are diagnosed more often in either children or the older adult population.

Gender: Men in general develop brain tumors more often than women, but certain types of brain tumors are more frequently diagnosed in women.

Family history: Currently, only about 5% of brain cancer is due to a hereditary or genetic factor.

Race and ethnicity: Data shows that in the United States, gliomas are more frequently diagnosed in the white population, while meningiomas are more common among the African American population

Prior treatment: Radiation treatments with high levels of exposure to ionizing radiation, used to treat certain types of cancer. X-rays, CT, PET-CT and bone scans are types of ionizing radiation as well, and the level of radiation depends on the type of test. Used correctly, the benefits of these tests exceed the risks.

Signs & Symptoms of Brain Cancer are:

Signs and symptoms are different for each patient and may vary depending on the area of the brain affected by the tumor. It’s important to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your physician. Symptoms may include:

  • Headaches that get worse over time
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sensory changes (vision, smell, hearing)
  • Problems with balance
  • Behavioral or emotional changes
  • Cognitive changes
  • Impaired speech
  • Seizures
  • Fatigue, Sleep Problems, Drowsiness

Screening & Diagnostic Testing

A complete physical exam and medical history should be done. The exam will check for any unusual physical signs. A complete medical history is also important to fully understand a person’s health habits, family history, previous illnesses, and past exposure. Additional testing may include:

  • Biopsy
  • MRI
  • CT Scan
  • PET-CT Scan
  • Cerebral arteriogram or cerebral angiogram
  • Spinal tap
  • Myelogram
  • Molecular testing
  • Assessment tests (neurological, vision, hearing, neurocognitive)
  • EEG (Electroencephalography)

Helpful Patient Resources:

We understand that receiving a cancer diagnosis can be a very scary and it is an emotional time for the patient and their families. It is very important to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your oncologist. We highly recommend that if you do any research about your disease, that you do so only with reputable sources. For your convenience, we’ve listed some below.

National Cancer Institute

Brain Tumors - Patient Version

American Cancer Society

Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors in Adults

National Comprehensive Cancer Network

Guidelines for Patients