Conditions InDepth: Brain Tumors
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Brain tumors can be metastatic and spread to the brain from other parts of the body. Or they can be primary and begin in the brain itself. In addition to tumors involving the brain, some central nervous system (CNS) tumors arise from the coverings of the brain and can affect the underlying brain. Grading, along with other factors, determine how aggressive primary CNS tumors are.
Normal Anatomy and the Development of Brain Tumors
The CNS controls how the body works. It reads information from the senses. It also controls body temperature, sleep patterns, and movement. The brain is also the center for memory, learning, and emotions.
The three main parts of the brain are:
Other nervous system structures are:
Cell division and cell death are normal. This process is meant to replace old or damaged cells. Sometimes this can continue after it is supposed to stop. This extra growth can form a tumor. It is not clear exactly what causes these problems. It may be a mix of genes and the environment.
Types of Brain Tumors
There are two main types:
The problems you have and how to treat them depend partly on where the tumor is. Most are named for the place they start:
Adult central nervous system tumors treatment (PDQ®)–health professional version. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/brain/hp/adult-brain-treatment-pdq. Accessed July 13, 2021.
Astrocytoma and oligodentroglioma in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/astrocytoma-and-oligodendroglioma-in-adults. Accessed July 13, 2021.
Brain and spinal cord tumors in adults. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/brain-spinal-cord-tumors-adults.html. Accessed July 15, 2021.
Brain and spinal cord tumors in children. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/brain-spinal-cord-tumors-children.html. Accessed July 15, 2021.
Childhood brain and spinal cord tumors treatment overview (PDQ®)–patient version. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/brain/patient/child-brain-treatment-pdq. Accessed July 15, 2021.
Meningioma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/meningioma. Accessed July 13, 2021.
Overview of brain tumors in children. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pediatrics/pediatric-cancers/overview-of-brain-tumors-in-children. Accessed July 15, 2021.
Overview of intracranial tumors. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic-disorders/intracranial-and-spinal-tumors/overview-of-intracranial-tumors. Accessed July 15, 2021.
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 7/15/2021