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What Are Some Different Types of Brain Tumors?

All brain tumors are either primary or metastatic.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 09 September 2014
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There are a number of different types of brain tumors, which can be broken up in a variety of ways by type and location. All brain tumors fall into one of two categories: they are either primary or “true” brain tumors which originate in the brain, or metastic tumors, tumors which originate elsewhere and end up in the brain. Among primary brain tumors, there are a number of different forms, usually differentiated on the basis of the types of cells involved, and the region of the brain where the tumor first forms.

The prognosis for brain tumors varies widely, depending on the type of tumor, the location, and the stage which the tumor has been reached. In some cases, brain tumors can be treated with the use of surgery and chemotherapy, and in other instances, they may be inoperable and ultimately fatal. Typically, treatment of brain tumors involves an oncologist and a neurologist, with the cancer and brain specialists working together to determine the best treatment plan.

One of the most common families of brain cancers is the gliomas. Gliomas involve so-called “glial cells” like astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, and ependymal cells, all of which contribute structural support to the brain. Some examples of gliomas include: dysembryoplastic neuroepithelial tumors, ganglioglioma, astrocytoma, oligodendroglioma, glioblastoma, oligoastrocytoma, glioblastoma multiforme, anaplastic astrocytoma, pilocytic astrocytoma, and ependymoma.

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Other brain tumors named for specific types of cells in the brain include gangliocytomas, which attack the ganglions, Schwannoma, which occurs in the Schwann cells which help control sense of hearing and balance, and meningioma, which occurs in the meninges of the brain. It is also possible to get adenoma, a cancer of the glands, in the brain, in the example of the pineal region tumor. Adenomas in the base of the brain near the pituitary gland are known as craniopharyngiomas.

Brain cancer can also take the form of a germinoma, a cancer which originates in germ cells. While germinomas are most common in the reproductive tract, sometimes they can occur in places like the brain, forming tumors such as teratomas. Lymphoma can also take the form of a primary brain tumor, in which case it is known as primary cerebral lymphoma, and brain cancers can also belong to a family of tumors known as primitive neuroectodermal tumors (PNETs) like retinoblastoma, neuroblastoma, and medulloblastoma.

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