Brain Cancer Types
Any tissues or cells within the brain can form tumors. Tumors that begin in the brain are primary brain tumors. Many times, brain tumors do not start in the brain but rather spread, or metastasize, from some other parts of the body. Tumors that start in other organs and spread to the brain are called metastatic or secondary tumors. Metastatic and primary brain tumors are usually treated differently.
Astrocytoma: Most tumors that develop within the brain itself begin in cells called astrocytes. These tumors are called astrocytomas. Most cannot be cured because they spread widely throughout the surrounding normal brain tissue.
Oligodendrogliomas: These tumors start in oligodendrocytes and spread in a manner similar to astrocytomas. In most cases, oligodendrogliomas cannot be completely removed by surgery.
Ependymomas: These tumors begin in ependymal cells, which line the ventricles. Ependymomas may block cerebrospinal fluid, causing the ventricles to become very large -- a condition called hydrocephalus. Ependymomas do not usually spread into normal brain tissue. As a result, some, but not all, ependymomas can be completely removed and cured by surgery.
Ganglioglioma: A tumor containing both neurons and glial cells is called a ganglioglioma. These have a high rate of cure by surgery alone or surgery combined with radiation therapy.
Schwannoma (neurilemoma): Schwannomas start in the Schwann cells surrounding cranial nerves and other nerves. These are usually benign tumors that often form near the cerebellum and in the cranial nerve responsible for hearing and balance.
Chordoma: These tumors begin in the bone at the back of the skull or at the lower end of the spinal cord. These tumors typically recur many times, but usually do not spread to other organs.
Lymphoma: Lymphomas start in lymphocytes.
Germ cell tumors: Germ cell tumors develop from germ cells. During embryonic and fetal development, germ cells may end up in abnormal locations such as the brain. They may then develop into germ cell tumors. The most common germ cell tumor of the nervous system is the germinoma.