The idea of a brain tumor strikes fear into the hearts of most people. However, learning more about how tumors in the brain develop and where they come from can help dispel some of the anxiety generated by this terrifying topic. Some facts may be surprising, and a little knowledge helps prepare people in the event of a brain tumor diagnosis for themselves or a loved one.
A brain tumor is a growth or mass of abnormal cells in the brain or central nervous system that can affect ordinary brain function. There are over 120 kinds of these tumors, and they form in different areas and different ways for everyone.
Tumors that originate in brain cells are called primary brain tumors. While these tumors can spread to other areas of the brain or to the spine, they rarely spread (or metastasize) to additional organs. Primary brain tumors can be either benign or malignant.
Benign tumors are not cancerous. They grow slowly, have well-defined borders, and do not invade other tissue. Malignant tumors, on the other hand, are cancerous and they do not have well-defined borders. Because they grow quickly and invade surrounding tissue, malignant tumors have the potential to endanger lives.
Starting in another part of the body and metastasizing to the brain, secondary brain tumors account for the majority of brain cancers and are always malignant. Cancers of the breast, kidney, lung, or skin are all types that can spread to the brain.
Related: What's Causing Your Memory Loss?
Brain Tumor Symptoms and Diagnosis
Certain people exhibit no symptoms at all when a brain tumor is discovered. Others have symptoms that vary according to the type of tumor and its location. Some symptoms associated with brain tumors include:
- Difficulty with speech and comprehension
- Frequent headaches
- Impaired coordination
- Personality changes
- Short-term memory loss
- Vision problems