Brain tumors that begin in the brain

Primary brain tumors originate in the brain itself or in tissues close to it, such as in the brain-covering membranes (meninges), cranial nerves, pituitary gland or pineal gland.

Primary brain tumors begin when normal cells acquire errors (mutations) in their DNA. These mutations allow cells to grow and divide at increased rates and to continue living when healthy cells would die. The result is a mass of abnormal cells, which forms a tumor.

Primary brain tumors are much less common than are secondary brain tumors, in which cancer begins elsewhere and spreads to the brain.

Many different types of primary brain tumors exist. Each gets its name from the type of cells involved. Examples include:

  • Acoustic neuroma (schwannoma)
  • Astrocytoma, also known as glioma, which includes anaplastic astrocytoma and glioblastoma
  • Ependymoma
  • Germ cell tumor
  • Medulloblastoma
  • Meningioma
  • Oligodendroglioma
  • Pineoblastoma

Cancer that begins elsewhere and spreads to the brain

Secondary (metastatic) brain tumors are tumors that result from cancer that starts elsewhere in your body and then spreads (metastasizes) to your brain.

Secondary brain tumors most often occur in people who have a history of cancer. But in rare cases, a metastatic brain tumor may be the first sign of cancer that began elsewhere in your body.

Secondary brain tumors are far more common than are primary brain tumors.

Any cancer can spread to the brain, but the most common types include:

  • Breast cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Melanoma
Apr. 09, 2014