Brain and Neurologic Cancers

What are brain and neurologic cancers?

Brain and neurologic cancers are often referred to as brain tumors. The two types of brain tumors are primary and secondary; primary tumors form in the brain, while secondary brain tumors form in another part of the body and spread, or metastasize, to the brain.

What are the different types of brain and neurologic cancers?

Brain tumors are often classified by grade, or the way the cancer cells appear microscopically. Low-grade tumors develop slowly and the cells appear more normally; high-grade tumors grow quicker and appear less normal than low-grade tumors.

Brain tumors are also classified by the type of cells, or the part of the brain, in which they originate. The three most common types of brain tumors in adults are:

  • Astrocytoma
  • Meningioma
  • Oligodendroglioma

What are the symptoms of brain and neurologic cancers?

Symptoms of brain and neurologic cancers may vary depending on the type and location of the cancer. In fact, some brain tumors may cause no symptoms at all. The most common symptoms associated with brain tumors include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Changes in vision, hearing or speaking ability
  • Changes in cognitive ability (memory, attentiveness, alertness, etc.)
  • Changes in balance or clumsiness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Muscle spasms
  • Numbness in limbs
  • Lethargy
  • Changes in mood or personality
  • Seizures

If symptoms indicate a brain tumor, diagnostic testing will be recommended. Tests may include a physical exam, MRI, CT scan, spinal tap and/or biopsy.

What are the causes and risk factors of brain and neurologic cancers?

The exact cause of brain and neurologic is unknown. Like tumors elsewhere in the body, certain genetic and environmental risk factors may play a role in the development of brain tumors. These risk factors may include:

  • Family history
  • Radiation exposure
  • HIV
  • Smoking

How are brain and neurologic cancers treated?

Treatment for brain and neurologic cancers is individualized, meaning each patient has a very different care plan. Treatment depends on the type and grade of the brain tumor, as well as the patient's medical history and overall health.

Common treatment strategies include chemotherapy, radiation and/or surgery. Brain tumors can often be treated using CyberKnife technology.