Types of Brain Cancer

Types of Brain Cancer

Cancerous Brain Tumors

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Brain cancer is, like other tumors, caused by irregularities affecting genes, and patients suffering from the following diseases have an inherently higher risk of developing brain cancer:

  •  Von Hippel-Lindau disease
  •   Neurofibromatosis
  •   Retinoblastoma
  •   Li-Fraumeni syndrome


Cancerous brain tumors can be grouped into two broad categories; primary and secondary. Primary brain cancer is begins in the brain while secondary brain cancer occurs when a cancer in another region of the body metastasizes to the brain, an event very common with lung and breast cancers. However, our focus is on primary cancer tumors, and with regard to this, in the US:

  • The incidence rate is 7.3/100, 000
  • From the estimated number of 69,720 new incidences of brain tumors in 2013, it is expected that 24,620 of this will be cancerous.
  • Of the estimated 24,620 cases, 10,990 cases will be from females and 13,630 will be from males.
  • Males stand a 0.7% probability of being diagnosed with the disease and females a 0.6% probability.
  •  It was estimated that there were more than 138,054 people living with a diagnosis of malignant brain cancer in 2010.

There are several types of primary malignant brain tumors, named as is conventional after the cells they emerge from. The most common malignant brain cancers are:

  • Glioma– This is a general term used to group a motley of cancers arising from glial cells. While they represent about 30% of all brain tumors, they are responsible for about 80% of all malignant brain tumors. The different subtypes of Glioma are categorized based on histological differences, and they can be further subcategorized according to a WHO- approved grading system (I-IV) or location. These subtypes are:
    • Astrocytoma– These originate from astrocytes and are the most common gliomas. Of the several kinds of astrocytomas, the glioblastoma multiforme is the most common and most lethal. Anaplastic astrocytoma is also a common subtype.
    • Ependymomas– These originate from ependymal cells and can spread through the ventricles to other parts of the central nervous system.
    • Oligodendroglioma– These are normally found within the forebrain and originate from oligodendrocytes. They are also located within the temporal and frontal lobes. They can spread through CSF to affect other regions of the CNS.
    • Mixed gliomas– Samples drawn from these tumors will show the presence of two or three different gliomas.
    • Primitive Neuroectodermal Tumors (PNET) – these tumors develop from undifferentiated nerve cells; they are very malignant and are easily spread to other parts of the CNS through CSF. They occasionally also spread beyond the CNS.  Medulloblastoma is the most common subtype, and is predominantly found in children; it mainly affects the cerebellum, and in the US, about 500 new cases are diagnosed every year.

Other malignant brain tumors exist, but their occurrence is very rare. People suffering any sort of brain cancer are likely to develop intracranial hypertension, which can manifest as either of the following:

  • Uncoordinated movement
  • Headaches/migraines
  • Speech problems
  • Nausea etc.

As always, it is advisable to consult a physician whenever you feel unwell, as a casual checkup could lead to the early detection of  any type of brain cancers.