Primary Brain Tumor

Primary Brain Tumor

Any tumor that starts in the brain is called a primary brain tumor. These brain tumors can start from the membranes around the brain (meninges), brain cells, nerves or glands.

Tumors can destroy brain cells. They can also damage cells by placing pressure on other parts of the brain, producing inflammation and increasing pressure within the skull.

The cause of primary brain tumors is unknown, although there are many risk factors that could play a role, including:

  • Exposure to radiation or to power lines, as well as head injuries, smoking and hormone therapy.
  • Lymphomas that begin in the brain of people with a weakened immune system are sometimes linked to Epstein-Barr virus infection.
  • Radiation therapy used to treat brain cancers increases the risk of brain tumors up to 20 or 30 years later.
  • Some inherited conditions increase the risk of brain tumors including:
    • Neurofibromatosis
    • Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome
    • Li-Fraumeni syndrome
    • Turcot syndrome.

Studies have found that cordless phones, wireless devices and cell phones are safe, and using them does not increase the risk brain tumors.

Brain tumors are classified on these as well as other factors:

  • Location of the tumor
  • Type of tissue involved
  • Whether they are noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant)

At times tumors can change their biologic behavior, starting out less aggressive and becoming more so.

Tumors can occur at any age, but many types are most associated with a certain age group. The most common tumor types in adults are gliomas and meningiomas.

Gliomas come from glial cells, such as astrocytes, ependymal cells and oligodendrocytes. They are divided into three types:

  • Astrocytic tumors – include astrocytomas (can be non-cancerous), anaplastic astrocytomas and glioblastomas.
  • Glioblastomas – the most aggressive type of primary brain tumor.
  • Oligodendroglial tumors – primary brain tumors that are made up of both astrocytic and oligodendrocytic tumors. They are called mixed gliomas.

Two other types of brain tumors are meningiomas and schwannomas. These brain tumors:

  • Are usually non-cancerous, but can cause serious complications and death depending upon their size or location. Some are cancerous and aggressive.
  • Occur most often between ages 40 and 70.

Some primary brain tumors in adults are considered rare and include:

  • Craniopharyngiomas
  • Ependymomas
  • Pineal gland tumors
  • Pituitary tumors
  • Primary (central nervous system - CNS) lymphoma
  • Primary germ cell tumors of the brain

Primary Brain Tumor Symptoms

The most common symptoms of primary brain tumors include:

  • Changes in mood, personality, or ability to concentrate
  • Changes in speech, vision, or hearing
  • Headaches (usually worse in the morning)
  • Muscle jerking or twitching (seizures or convulsions)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms or legs
  • Problems balancing or walking
  • Problems with memory

Getting Diagnosed

Our team of specialists provides the most up-to-date evaluations using the latest diagnostic and imaging technology.

We work very closely with the departments of Neurosurgery, Interventional Neuroradiology, Neurology and Radiation Oncology, as well as the Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus Center and Skull Base Center to ensure an accurate diagnosis and the appropriate treatment for the best outcome.


Make an appointment

Call now to find a Northwell Health Neuroscience Institute physician.

The Neuroscience Institute

We are dedicated to the world-class diagnosis and treatment of neurological diseases and disorders.