Brain Tumours: Types, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatments

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 20 May 2022

What is a Brain Tumour?

A brain tumour is a collection of abnormal cells that develop uncontrollably in your brain. The cells in some brain tumours are benign, meaning they aren't cancerous. Others are cancerous, which implies they are malignant.

If a brain tumour began in the brain, it is referred to as a primary tumour. If they originated somewhere in your body and spread to your brain, they're classified as secondary.

Types of Brain Tumours

Primary brain tumours arise from the brain's and central nervous system's cells. They get their name from the kind of cell in which they first originate. There are over 100 different types of brain tumours. The following are the most common types for adults:

  • Gliomas: Glial cells, which help keep nerves healthy, are where these tumours begin. The most common cause is cancer. Gliomas are classified into many groups depending on the cells they strike. Adults are the most frequent victims of astrocytomas. The most dangerous kind of glial tumour is glioblastoma.
  • Meningiomas: The meninges, a thin layer of tissue that protects the brain and spinal cord, are where these form. They aren't cancer, just by rubbing on the brain, they will trigger complications.
  • Schwannomas: The protective layer on nerve cells is damaged as a result. They aren't cancer, although they can cause hearing loss or balance problems.
  • Pituitary adenomas: This develops on the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain. It is responsible for the production of important hormones. These tumours aren't normally cancerous and develop slowly.

Benign vs. Malignant Brain Tumours

Benign Brain Tumours

Benign brain tumours aren't aggressive and don't usually spread to surrounding tissues, but they can be dangerous and sometimes fatal. Benign brain tumours typically have well-defined borders and aren't deeply embedded in the brain. If they're in an area of the brain where surgery is safe, this makes them easier to remove surgically. They may, however, return. Cancerous tumours are more likely to recur than benign tumours.

Even a benign brain tumour can be dangerous to one's health. By inducing inflammation and increasing pressure on surrounding tissue, as well as within your skull, brain tumours can harm the cells around them.

Malignant Primary Brain Tumours

Malignant primary brain tumours are cancers that begin in the brain, develop more rapidly than benign tumours, and invade surrounding tissue quickly. While brain cancer rarely spreads to other organs, it does have the potential to spread to other parts of the brain and central nervous system.

Secondary Brain Tumours

Secondary brain tumours are cancerous. They're the result of cancer that originated elsewhere in your body and spread to your brain, or metastasized. A secondary brain tumour affects about one out of every four cancer patients.

Brain Tumour Symptoms

The symptoms of brain tumours differ depending on the type and location of the tumour. Since various parts of the brain regulate different bodily functions, the location of the tumour has an impact on the symptoms you encounter.

Some tumours are asymptomatic until they reach a certain size, at which point they cause a severe and rapid deterioration in health. Other tumours can have slow-developing symptoms.

Symptoms that are common include:

  • Headaches that don't seem to respond to traditional headache remedies. You may find that you're having them more often or that they're more severe than normal.
  • Seizures, particularly in someone who has never had a seizure before.
  • Speech or hearing changes
  • Vision changes
  • Problems with balance
  • Walking difficulties
  • Tingling or numbness in the arms or legs
  • Memory problems
  • Personality changes
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Weakness in a specific body part
  • Morning vomiting without nausea

Many conditions can cause these symptoms. If you have any of these symptoms, consult your doctor.

The majority of the time, doctors are unable to determine the cause of a brain tumour. In adults, there are only a few recognized risk factors for brain tumours.

  • Exposure to radiation: Children who are exposed to heat radiation have a greater chance of having a brain tumour than adults.
  • Family history: Neurofibromatosis and Li-Fraumeni syndrome are two unusual hereditary diseases related to brain tumours.
  • Age: The demographic most likely to be diagnosed with a brain tumour is between the ages of 65 and 79.
  • No history of chickenpox: According to one study, people who have had chickenpox are less prone to develop gliomas.

Brain Tumour Diagnosis

Your doctor will begin by asking questions regarding your symptoms, physical health, and family health background in order to identify a brain tumour. Then they'll do a physical examination, which may include a psychological examination. If a brain tumour is suspected, the doctor may order one or more of the following tests:

  • To see accurate images of the brain, imaging studies such as a CT scan or an MRI are used.
  • Angiogram or MRA, which uses dye and X-rays to scan for signs of a tumour or enlarged blood vessels in the brain.

A biopsy could be requested by the doctor to determine if the tumour is cancerous. They'll take a sample of the brain tissue. It's possible they'll do it before removing the tumour. They may even puncture the skull with a needle into a little hole drilled through it. They'll take the sample to a laboratory for analysis.

Brain Tumour Treatment

When deciding how to treat your brain tumour, your doctor will weigh the following factors:

  • The tumour's location
  • The tumour's size
  • Tumour classification
  • Whether or not the tumour has spread
  • Your general health
  • Potential complications

When a brain tumour is discovered, the first course of action is usually surgery to resect the tumour. However, because of their location in the brain, certain tumours cannot be surgically removed. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can be used to suppress and shrink the tumour in these situations.

Following surgery, you may get chemotherapy or radiation to destroy any surviving cancer cells. Gamma knife therapy, a form of intensely concentrated radiation therapy, can be used to treat tumours deep in the brain or in difficult-to-reach areas.

Since cancer therapy may do harm to healthy tissue, you should discuss the long-term consequences of the treatment with your doctor. They will explain the risks of losing those abilities as well as the likelihood of losing them. The doctor will also discuss the value of making plans for post-treatment rehabilitation. Rehabilitation can include consulting with a variety of therapists, including:

  • To restore strength and balance, physical therapists are needed.
  • For assistance in speaking, expressing thoughts, or swallowing, a speech therapist is required.
  • Occupational therapist to assist with everyday tasks such as using the bathroom, bathing, and dressing.

10 Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Brain Tumours

If you've just been diagnosed with a brain tumour, bring these questions up with the doctor at your next appointment.

  1. What kind of brain tumour do I have and what grade is it?
  2. What are the signs and symptoms of a brain tumour?
  3. What part of my brain is impaired by the tumour, and what is the role of this area of the brain?
  4. Is it possible to remove my tumour surgically?
  5. Would I require further medications following surgery if you are unable to surgically extract the tumour? For example, chemotherapy or radiotherapy?
  6. What are the potential side effects of these treatments?
  7. Who would be on my treatment team, and how long will I be seeing them?
  8. Are there any other therapies available for my condition?
  9. Can this illness or its treatment cause any long-term problems?
  10. Do you know of any local support groups I could contact?


Referenced on 27.4.2021

  1. MedlinePlus Encyclopedia: “Brain Tumor – primary – adults."
  2. National Cancer Institute: “National Cancer Institute Brain Tumor Study in Adults: Fact Sheet."
  3. National Cancer Institute: “What You Need to Know About Brain Tumors."
  4. National Cancer Institute: “General Information About Brain Tumors."
  5. American Brain Tumor Association: “Symptoms."
  6. National Cancer Institute: “Adult Brain Tumors Treatment."
  7. National Brain Tumor Society: “Quick Brain Tumor Facts." “Brain Tumor Education."
  8. American Brain Tumor Association.

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