Brain Tumor

Also known as: Adult brain tumors, Brain metastases, Metastatic brain tumors, Brain cancer, Primary brain tumors, Central nervous system tumors

At Providence Cancer Center, patients and families benefit from some of the finest, most comprehensive cancer services in the world, including the best in diagnostic imaging, state-of-the-art treatments, nationally-renowned research, and compassionate counseling and support. Our doctors, surgeons, nurses, researchers, patient advocates and other caregivers work together to treat cancer aggressively and to ensure that no person has to face the challenge of a cancer diagnosis alone.

Parts of the brain: cerebellum, ventricle, meninges, cerabrum, pituitary, and brainstem

Your body is constantly growing new cells to replace older ones. A tumor occurs when cells begin to grow abnormally and without control. Tumors can be cancerous (malignant) or not non-cancerous (benign). A benign tumor will stay where it is and tends to grow slowly. A malignant tumor can grow into nearby tissues and tends to grow faster. Most types of malignant tumors can also spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body, although tumors that start in the brain rarely metastasize.

primary brain tumor is one that first appears in the brain. This may be benign or malignant. A metastatic (secondary) brain tumor results from a cancer that starts elsewhere in the body and then spreads to the brain. Either type of tumor (primary or metastatic) can damage brain cells directly by penetrating the brain, or indirectly by displacing the brain. Because of this, any type of brain tumor can be dangerous, as it can grow large enough to affect sensitive parts of the brain.

Healthcare providers don’t know what causes primary brain tumors.

The most common primary brain tumors are gliomas and meningiomas. Many gliomas are cancerous, or malignant. Most meningiomas are benign. But meningiomas still may cause severe complications, depending on how big they are and where they are in the brain.

The first tests used to diagnose a brain tumor is often imaging with a CT scan and/or an MRI scan of the brain. Often a sample of tumor tissue (biopsy) is needed. The sample is taken during surgery.

Most brain tumors should be treated right away. Surgery is needed to treat most primary brain tumors. Some tumors respond to radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Your healthcare provider may recommend radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy in addition to, or instead of, surgery. New therapies are being testing for malignant brain tumors including immunotherapy, intra-arterial chemotherapy, therapies using viral vectors, etc.

Metastatic brain tumors can be treated surgically or only with radiotherapy including focussed radiotherapy (stereotaxic radiosurgery).

A brain tumor may cause seizures. If this happens, your healthcare provider can give you medicine to help prevent another seizure.

Home care

You can go back to your normal activities as you feel up to it. But if you had a seizure or fainted, you should not drive, take baths alone, or swim until your healthcare provider says it’s safe for you to do so. Take any seizure medicine as directed to help prevent another episode.

If you have headache or nausea, use the medicines provided.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • New seizures or seizures that keep happening

  • Repeated vomiting

  • You feel less alert or it’s difficult to wake you up

  • New changes to your vision, speech, or hearing

  • Weakness on one side of your body or loss of coordination and balance

  • Severe headache

  • Confusion

  • Difficulty thinking, speaking, or getting your words out