The Most Common Brain Tumor: 5 Things You Should Know

Brain Tumors: Which Ones Are Noncancerous?

The Most Common Brain Tumor: 5 Things You Should Know | Johns Hopkins Medicine

A noncancerous brain tumor is an unexpected cluster of abnormal cells in the brain. Most grow slowly. They can't spread to other parts of your body the way cancerous tumors do. But they can grow large enough to cause symptoms.

Your doctor may call it a benign tumor.

There are many kinds of noncancerous tumors. Each affects a different type of brain cell.

Even though they're noncancerous, it's important that you continue to follow up with your doctor. In rare cases, these tumors can become cancerous.

This is the most common kind of brain tumor. About one-third of them are this type.

Meningioma starts in the meninges — the protective cover around your brain and spinal cord.

Women are twice as ly as men to get meningioma. You may be more ly to get this tumor if you:

Most meningiomas don't cause symptoms until they get bigger. Then they can cause:

These get their name from the cells where they start. Schwann cells surround nerve cells in the brain.

The most common type of schwannoma is vestibular schwannoma, which your doctor may call acoustic neuroma. It affects the vestibular nerve. That travels from your inner ear to your brain and helps you keep your balance.

People with NF2 are more ly to get schwannomas. Women are twice as ly as men to get them.

Symptoms of schwannoma include:

These tumors start in the gland at the base of the brain that makes hormones, called the pituitary. The pituitary also directs other glands in your body to make their hormones.

Pituitary adenomas are common. Up to 1 in 5 adults have tiny tumors in their pituitary gland. Most of these tumors never grow or cause problems.

Women get these more often than men. Anyone can get these tumors, but people with the inherited disease multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) are more ly to get them.

Some pituitary adenomas produce hormones. These are called functional tumors.

Which symptoms you have depend on whether the tumor makes hormones, and which ones it makes:

If it creates:

Prolactin , and you're a woman, you may miss menstrual periods, or they may stop all together. Men may notice breast enlargement.

Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), you'll probably have symptoms of something called Cushing's disease. These can include weight gain, easy bruising, and weakness.

Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), it can bring hyperthyroidism symptoms weight loss, nervousness, and sweating.

Other symptoms of these tumors include:

These start in blood vessels. They can form in the brain, spinal cord, or the back of your eye (retina).

These tumors sometimes affect people with the genetic disease Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome.

Symptoms include:

This type starts from cells at the base of the brain near the pituitary gland. It's most common in children and in people older than 45.

When a craniopharyngioma grows, it can cause symptoms :

Gliomas grow in glial cells, which surround and support nerve cells in your brain and spinal cord.

These tumors affect both children and adults. But they're more common in adults. Men are slightly more ly to get a glioma than women.

People with inherited diseases NF1 or tuberous sclerosis are more ly to get them.

Gliomas come in a few different grades, how much (or how little) they look normal cells and how rapidly they grow:

  • Grade I: These cells look almost normal. They grow very slowly.
  • Grade II: A bit of abnormality sets in. They can return after treatment as a higher grade.
  • Grade III: The cells quickly reproduce and are more aggressive than the first two grades.
  • Grade IV: These cells look nothing normal cells. They're very aggressive and grow very quickly.

Your doctor will ask whether you've had brain tumor symptoms seizures, headaches, or nausea. You may need one or more of these tests:

CT, or computed tomography: A powerful X-ray makes detailed pictures of your brain.

MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging: Powerful magnets and radio waves make pictures of your brain.

Biopsy: This test removes a small amount of cells from the tumor. Your sample is checked under a microscope to see if it has cancer cells.

Lumbar puncture (also known as a spinal tap): This may be done to check for abnormal cells in the spinal fluid.

Blood and urine tests: You may have these to look for hormones and other substances that tumors release in your body. Your doctor could use these to check how well your organs are working, too.

Small tumors may not need treatment. Your doctor will check you regularly with CT or MRI scans to see if the tumor grows.

Bigger tumors are removed with surgery. Your surgeon will try to take out as much of the tumor as possible.

Radiation is another treatment. It uses high-energy X-rays to shrink tumors. Doctors use radiation on tumors when they:

  • Can't be fully removed with surgery
  • Come back after surgery

A type of radiation treatment called stereotactic radiosurgery is an option for some brain tumors. It aims high doses of radiation directly at your tumor to avoid harming nearby tissues.

Your doctor will discuss all of your treatment options with you, and help you decide on a plan that is best for you.


American Association of Neurological Surgeons: “Meningiomas.”

American Brain Tumor Association: “Craniopharyngioma,” “Meningioma,” “Schwannoma.”

American Cancer Society: “Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors in Adults,” “Pituitary Tumors.”

Cancer Research UK: “Schwannoma.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Pituitary Adenoma.”

Columbia Neurosurgery: “Causes and Risk Factors of Gliomas.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Gliomas,” “Meningioma Treatment,” “Pituitary Tumors.”

National Health Service: “Benign brain tumour (non-cancerous).”

National Comprehensive Cancer Network: “NCCN Guidelines for Patients: Brain Cancer — Gliomas.”

The Spine Hospital at the Neurological Institute of New York: “Hemangioblastoma.”

UCLA Health: “Craniopharyngioma,” “Hemangioblastomas,” “Pituitary Adenomas.”

© 2018 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.


The Most Common Brain Tumor: 5 Things You Should Know

The Most Common Brain Tumor: 5 Things You Should Know | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Linkedin Pinterest Brain Tumor Treatment Cancer Neurology Brain Tumor

A brain tumor diagnosis can sound a life-threatening situation. But although the symptoms of most brain tumors are the same, not all tumors are malignant.

In fact, meningioma is the most common brain tumor, accounting for about 30 percent of them. Meningioma tumors are often benign: You may not even need surgery.

Here are five key meningioma facts you need to know:

  1. These tumors arise from cells in the meninges, the lining of the brain and spinal cord. So technically speaking, they’re not brain tumors at all since they don’t result from mutated brain cells.

    But they still grow inside your skull, which means there’s cause for concern. If a meningioma grows or causes swelling that presses against the brain or other structures in the skull, it can cause brain tumor symptoms.

    Potential origin sites for meningioma in the brain:

  2. Meningiomas present with typical brain tumor symptoms such as headaches, vision problems or seizures. A headache–even a severe one–on its own is seldom a symptom of meningioma or any other brain tumor.

    Larger meningiomas can block the flow of cerebrospinal fluid, resulting in hydrocephalus (“water on the brain”) which can affect gait and memory. Other tumor locations can affect your sense of smell, vision, hearing or even the function of your pituitary gland.

  3. Brain tumor diagnosis is often incidental — that is, the doctor discovers a tumor on a CT or MRI while examining the individual for another reason such as a head injury or another neurologic problem.

    When a doctor diagnoses a meningioma, you will get further tests to find out how the tumor is ly to behave. these data, a neurosurgeon will recommend removing the tumor or just watching it to see if it grows.

  4. It can be shocking for someone to be diagnosed with a meningioma — especially a large one — but these tumors are usually benign. This means that the tumor cells are not ly to spread to other parts of the body.

    That said, meningiomas can quietly grow for years without causing any problems — and they can get surprisingly large.

  5. Sometimes, believe it or not, your doctor may recommend observation for meningioma, especially if it’s small and not causing problems. You’ll have regular MRIs to check on it.

    Otherwise, the main treatment for meningiomas is surgery to remove it, through a craniotomy or other procedure. Your doctor will go over what the operation will involve, the approach to access the tumor and what you can expect afterward.

    How does a neurosurgeon operate on a meningioma? It’s all about location. Depending on where the tumor is, each approach will be different. Tumors close to the surface are typically easier to access than those located along the skull base.

    Skull base tumors are those located deep in the skull, behind the nose or eyes. These can be challenging, and call for surgeons with skill and expertise in this kind of surgery.

    There are a number of new techniques in brain tumor surgery, even for tumors located deep in the skull, and some of these are less invasive.

    One system involves a camera-assisted tube that gently moves brain tissue aside so surgeons can reach the tumor with less cutting, so patients can recover faster,

    After your treatment you will have regular MRIs to ensure the tumor isn’t returning.

    In many cases, it won’t. After 10 years, about 90 percent of patients who have had a meningioma have not seen a recurrence if the tumor is removed completely, including the part of the brain lining from which it grew.

    Regardless, the best thing to do if you’re diagnosed with a meningioma or any other tumor is to get the facts, stay informed and work with the most experienced neurosurgeon and care team you can find.


Combination drug therapy for childhood brain tumors shows promise in laboratory models: Researchers say findings support use in clinical trials

The Most Common Brain Tumor: 5 Things You Should Know | Johns Hopkins Medicine

In experiments with human cells and mice, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center report evidence that combining the experimental cancer medication TAK228 (also called sapanisertib) with an existing anti-cancer drug called trametinib may be more effective than either drug alone in decreasing the growth of pediatric low-grade gliomas. These cancers are the most common childhood brain cancer, accounting for up to one-third of all cases. Low grade pediatric gliomas arise in brain cells (glia) that support and nourish neurons, and current standard chemotherapies with decades-old drugs, while generally effective in lengthening life, often carry side effects or are not tolerated. Approximately 50% of children treated with traditional therapy have their tumors regrow, underscoring the need for better, targeted treatments.

The combination therapy, when tested in tumor cell lines derived from children's gliomas, stopped the tumor cells from growing. In mice, these drugs reduced tumor volume and allowed mice to live longer, the researchers say.

Mice treated with the combination of drugs also had greatly decreased blood supply to their tumors, suggesting that treatment can starve tumors of the blood they need to grow.

The research, described online in the journal Neuro-Oncology in December 2019, suggests that a clinical trial combining these agents in children would be beneficial, the investigators add.

“We thought one plus one might well equal three in the case of these drugs, and that's what we found,” says senior study author and pediatric oncologist Eric Raabe, M.D., Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, and associate professor of oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Previous research showed that pediatric low-grade gliomas contain gene mutations that increase the activity of two cell signaling pathways: mammalian target of rapamycin complexes 1 and 2 (mTORC1/2) and Ras/mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), says Raabe. Both enable proteins that promote cell growth.

TAK228/sapanisertib, which is in clinical trials for adult patients with cancer, inhibits the mTOR pathway; trametinib, which is approved for treatment of melanoma, inhibits the MAPK pathway.

When Raabe and team treated tumors or cells with just one of the drugs targeting one of the pathways, the cancer cells were able to use the other pathway to survive, Raabe says.

In the new study, Raabe and colleagues tested TAK228 and trametinib in patient-derived pediatric low-grade glioma cell lines grown in the laboratory. Using the two drugs together led to a 50% reduction in tumor cell growth.

The combination therapy also suppressed activity by more than 50% in both the mTOR and MAPK signaling pathways, and reduced cell proliferation by more than 90%.

The combination killed some pediatric low grade glioma cells — increasing the cells killed by nearly threefold over cells treated with each agent alone.

The investigators then gave mice implanted with human low grade glioma tumors TAK228, trametinib, the combination of the two drugs, or a combination placebo. Survival was three times longer in the animals receiving the combination therapy versus single treatments, a difference of 36 days compared with 12 days.

Combination therapy-treated tumors were 50% smaller on average over two weeks' treatment time compared with single drug therapy. Combination therapy in the animal models led to suppressed mTOR and MAPK pathways by more than 80%. The number of growing cells in these tumors decreased by more than 60%.

The blood supply to the tumors was decreased by 50%-95%.

Raabe cautions that more preclinical research must be done to determine the best and safest potential dosing regimen, in part because trametinib stays in the body for four to five days, and the MAPK pathway it targets is needed by healthy cells for normal growth in children.

In addition, mice receiving the combination therapy didn't grow as well as those receiving single drug therapy, so the dosing schedule needs to be customized for children, he says.

Currently, TAK228 is in clinical trials in adults, and early phase clinical trials of TAK228 are being considered for pediatric brain tumors, Raabe says.

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Brain Tumor Education – American Brain Tumor Association

The Most Common Brain Tumor: 5 Things You Should Know | Johns Hopkins Medicine

A brain tumor is a growth of abnormal cells that have formed in the brain. Some brain tumors are cancerous (malignant), while others are not (non-malignant). Either way, tumors in the brain or central nervous system. The central nervous system is made up of the brain as well as the spinal cord. It can affect the brain’s ability to work normally.

What is the difference between malignant and benign brain tumors?

Whether a tumor is benign or malignant depends on the level of cell abnormality. If the tumor is made up of normal looking cells, then it is benign; however, if the cells are abnormal, then the tumor is malignant.

“Benign” brain tumors are not cancer, although they often cause symptoms and will sometimes require treatment. Although many people are familiar with the term “benign,” it’s not always an accurate description. Even a so-called “benign” tumor is a serious medical condition. For that reason, we prefer to use the term “non-malignant” to describe brain tumors made up of noncancerous cells.

Malignant brain tumors are cancer. They generally grow faster and more aggressively than non-malignant tumors, invade other areas of the brain and spinal cord, and can be deadly.

Are All Brain Tumors Brain Cancer?

No. In fact, most brain tumors are not cancerous. Less than one-third of brain tumors are cancerous (malignant).

What is Tumor Grading?

A tumor grade is a way to classify a tumor and will help members of the healthcare team communicate more clearly about the tumor, determine treatment options, and predict outcomes.

Tumors are assigned Grade I, II, III, or IV abnormalities of the cells they contain. A tumor can have more than one grade of cell. The highest, or most malignant, grade of cell determines the tumor’s grade, even if most of the tumor is made up of lower-grade cells.

World Health Organization (WHO) Tumor Grade Descriptions

Grade I: These are the least malignant tumors and are usually associated with long-term survival. They grow slowly and have an almost normal appearance when viewed through a microscope.

Grade II: These tumors are slow growing and look slightly abnormal under a microscope. Some can spread into nearby normal tissue and recur, sometimes as a higher grade tumor.

Grade III: These tumors are malignant, although there is not always a significant difference between grade II and grade III tumors. The cells of a grade III tumor are actively reproducing abnormal cells, which grow into nearby normal brain tissue. These tumors tend to recur, often as a grade IV.

Grade IV: These are the most malignant tumors. They reproduce rapidly, can have a bizarre appearance when viewed under the microscope, and easily grow into nearby normal brain tissue. These tumors form new blood vessels so they can maintain their rapid growth.

Overview of the Brain’s Anatomy

The central nervous system (CNS) is made up of the brain and spinal cord. The brain is the most critical organ in the body. It directs and regulates all body functions.

The brain is made up of multiple parts, and each part of the brain is responsible for a different body function. Therefore, brain tumor symptoms, and potential treatment options, depend a great deal on where the tumor is located.

Brain Tumor Statistics

Brain tumors do not discriminate. They affect all ages, genders, and ethnicities.

  • Over 700,000 Americans are living with a brain tumor today.
  • Nearly 80,000 people will be diagnosed with a primary brain tumor this year.
  • There are more than 120 different types of primary brain and CNS tumors.
  • Approximately one-third (32 percent) of brain and central nervous system (CNS) tumors are malignant.
  • About 28,000 kids in the United States are fighting brain tumors right now.
  • This year, nearly 16,000 people will die as a result of a brain tumor.
  • Survival after diagnosis with a primary brain tumor varies significantly by age, tumor type, location, and molecular markers.

Brain Tumor Statistics by Age

  • The median age at diagnosis for all primary brain tumors is 60 years
  • Brain tumors are the second most common cancer among children 0-14. They are the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in this age group, outpacing even leukemia according to a 2016 report.
  • More than 4,600 children and adolescents between the ages of 0-19 will be diagnosed with a primary brain tumor this year
  • Brain and CNS tumors are the third most common cancer among adolescents and young adults (ages 15-39) and the third most common cause of cancer death in this age group

Risk Factors for Brain Tumors

Risk factors are things that may increase a person’s chance of getting a disease. Some risk factors, age, genetics, and family history, are our control. Other risk factors, smoking, are within our power to change.

Most of the time, we don’t know what causes a given person to develop a brain tumor. Having one or more risk factors does not automatically mean that you’ll develop a brain tumor, just as the lack of risk factors doesn’t guarantee that you’ll never develop one. Talk with your doctor about what you can do to reduce your risk.

Environmental Risk Factors

Of the many potential risk factors scientists have studied, only one – exposure to ionizing radiation – has been clearly shown to increase the risk of developing brain tumors. Ionizing radiation is frequently found in X-rays, which is why human bodies are protected by lead shields when some X-rays are performed.

Genetic Risk Factors

Anything that refers to the genes can be called “genetic.” However, only about 5 to 10 percent of brain tumors are passed down from one generation to another in a family (heredity).

In cases of hereditary brain tumors, a mutation change in the DNA sequence that makes up a specific gene is passed from parent to child. Most genetic risk factors are not present at birth, but actually develop as we age.

While most of our genes do their jobs as expected, a small number develop a mutation or other error that causes them stop working the way they should.

This malfunctioning can change the way cells grow, which may eventually lead to the development of cancer.

If multiple members of your family have been diagnosed with brain tumors, or you have concerns about starting a family, a genetic counselor may be able to help. Contact the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service (1-800-422-6237) to find a genetic counselor in your area.


Early symptoms of a brain tumor: Mental and physical signs

The Most Common Brain Tumor: 5 Things You Should Know | Johns Hopkins Medicine
Medically reviewed by Nancy Hammond, MD on September 2, 2019 — Written by Beth Sissons

  • Symptoms
  • What else could it be?
  • When to see a doctor
  • Summary

Brain tumors can cause both physical and mental symptoms. The symptoms can differ depending on the type, location, and stage of the tumor.

Some symptoms can be quite general. These include headaches, vision problems, and mood changes. Seizures and personality changes can also signal the presence of a brain tumor.

If a person notices any early symptoms of a brain tumor, they should speak to their doctor for a thorough diagnosis. Early diagnosis and treatment can lead to better outcomes.

This article looks at various symptoms of brain tumors, including those linked to different types and locations of tumor, as well as the risk factors for each.

Brain tumor symptoms are similar regardless of whether they are cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign).

They may differ depending on the type, location in the brain, and the stage of the tumor.

Some of the most common symptoms of a brain tumor include:

  • headaches
  • seizures
  • changes in personality
  • vision problems
  • memory loss
  • mood swings
  • tingling or stiffness on one side of the body
  • loss of balance
  • nausea
  • fatigue
  • anxiety or depression
  • difficulty concentrating
  • difficulty communicating as usual
  • feeling confused or disorientated
  • loss of coordination
  • muscle weakness

Primary brain tumors are tumors that begin in the brain.

In the sections below, we look at several types of brain tumor and their specific symptoms:


Roughly one-third of primary brain tumors are meningiomas. They are usually benign and slow growing.

They grow from tissue covering the brain and spinal cord and create pressure on these areas.

Meningiomas are rare in children and most common in women over the age of 60.

Symptoms of meningioma can include:

  • headaches
  • weakness in the arm or leg
  • seizures
  • changes in personality
  • vision problems


Glioblastomas are malignant tumors. They can be fast growing and require more intensive treatment.

According to the American Brain Tumor Association, healthcare providers assign a grade to tumors depending on how abnormal the cells they contain are.

Grade 1 tumors are the least malignant and grade 4 are the most malignant. Glioblastomas are grade 4 tumors.

Glioblastomas create pressure on the brain, and symptoms include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • headaches, which may be more intense in the morning
  • weakness in the body, such as in an arm, a leg, or the face
  • difficulty balancing
  • problems with memory
  • seizures


Share on PinterestHeadaches, memory loss, and seizures are all early symptoms of astrocytomas.

Astrocytomas are brain tumors that grow from cells called astrocytes, which make up brain tissue.

They can range from grade 1 to 4, with grade 1 tumors being slower growing than grade 4 tumors.

Some of the early symptoms for astrocytoma include:

  • headaches
  • memory loss
  • seizures
  • changes in behavior


A craniopharyngioma is a benign tumor that develops close to the pituitary gland. It is much more common in children than adults. Medulloblastoma and ependymomas are also more common among children.

The tumor creates pressure on the pituitary gland and optic tract, which is an extension of the optic nerve. This can cause the following symptoms:

  • delay in development
  • obesity
  • vision problems due to a swollen optic nerve
  • hormone problems

Pituitary tumors

Pituitary tumors develop in the pituitary gland and affect hormone levels. They tend to be more common in women and make up 9–12% of all primary brain tumors.

They are slow growing, though larger tumors can create pressure on surrounding areas of the brain. These tumors can secrete pituitary hormones and cause additional symptoms.

According to the American Cancer Society, tumors that start in the pituitary gland are almost always noncancerous.

Symptoms of pituitary tumors include:

  • headaches
  • vision problems
  • changes in behavior
  • changes in hormone levels


Metastatic brain tumors, or secondary brain tumors, form in other parts of the body where cancer is present and move to the brain through the bloodstream.

Metastatic brain tumors present the same symptoms as primary brain tumors, with the most common symptoms being:

  • headaches
  • seizures
  • short term memory loss
  • changes in personality or behavior
  • weakness on one side of the body
  • balance difficulties

Symptoms of brain tumors can also be similar to those of other medical conditions, such as headaches and multiple sclerosis (MS).

Most headaches do not signal the presence of a brain tumor, and experiencing a headache by itself is usually not a cause for concern.

However, signs that a headache could be a symptom of a brain tumor include:

  • persistent headaches, particularly if the person has no history of severe headaches
  • headaches that increase in intensity over time
  • headaches that are worse in the morning
  • headaches that wake people up from sleep

Learn more about the possible causes of persistent headaches here.

If a person experiences frequent or severe headaches, they may have migraine, tension, or cluster headaches. These can also create feelings of nausea.

Symptoms of migraine can range from mild to severe and include:

  • nausea, which may worsen with activity
  • a throbbing sensation on one side of the head
  • increased sensitivity to light and sound
  • facial pain

A migraine headache can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days, or even weeks.

Read about the possible causes of headache with nausea here.

Tension headaches are usually mild to moderate, and symptoms include:

  • headaches that build slowly
  • dull pain on both sides of the head
  • pain that can spread to the neck

Cluster headaches cause severe pain and occur in bursts. These episodes can last anywhere from 1 to 3 hours. Symptoms include:

  • pain on one side of the head
  • sudden pain around the eye area
  • swelling or drooping of the eye
  • feeling restless or agitated
  • watery eyes and nasal congestion
  • eye redness

MS is a condition that affects the central nervous system and can produce similar symptoms to those of a brain tumor. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • difficulty balancing
  • fatigue
  • mood swings
  • depression
  • numbness or tingling in the face, arms, or legs
  • weakness in the body
  • problems with vision

Less common symptoms include seizures, problems with speech, and hearing loss.

Share on PinterestA person should see their doctor if they experience seizures, unexplained vision problems, or communication difficulties.

People should see their doctor if they experience any of the following symptoms:

  • seizures
  • weakness, numbness, or tingling in one side the body
  • unexplained vision problems
  • communication difficulties
  • changes in personality or behavior

A doctor will take a full medical history and perform a range of neurological tests to see what is causing the symptoms. For example, they may:

  • run CT scans or MRI scans, to provide an image of the brain
  • conduct tests to check balance, vision, and coordination

Also, if they locate a tumor in the brain, they may take a tissue sample, or biopsy, to find out what type it is.

A person should see their doctor if they experience severe or frequent headaches. They will be able to rule out any underlying causes and suggest lifestyle changes or treatment options.

If a brain tumor is present, treatment will depend on the type and stage of the tumor. Options may include surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy to remove or shrink the brain tumor.

People should see their doctor if they experience any of the symptoms listed above. Many of the symptoms overlap with those of other causes and may signal another health condition.

Tracking any symptoms can help a doctor determine a diagnosis. Keeping track of what time and how frequently symptoms occur can also help.

If a person does have symptoms that signal a brain tumor, early diagnosis and treatment are important to help prevent the tumor from growing.