There are more than 100 types of brain tumors. The main categories are gliomas, metastatic tumors, pituitary tumors, primitive neuroectodermal tumors (PNET), and benign tumors such as meningiomas. These types of brain tumors are usually classified according to the types of cell in which they originated and the severity of the tumor.
Gliomas are the largest of the various types of brain tumors. Gliomas originate in the brain’s supportive tissue, which is made up of glial cells. The most prevalent type of glioma is the astrocytoma, which is very malignant and can affect both children and adults. Astrocytomas exert cranial pressure that can lead to headaches, balance issues, nausea and double vision.
A brain stem glioma is one of the types of brain tumors that occur in the stem of the brain. Such tumors are most common in children, can affect movement in one or both sides of the body, and can cause double vision and coordination problems. Their location means most brain stem gliomas are not treated with surgery.
The most common types of brain tumors are metastatic tumors, which are tumors that have invaded the brain from other infected parts of the body. These types of brain tumors are very malignant and are usually treated aggressively with chemotherapy, radiation, surgery or a combination of two or more of the three. They often return after remission and normally originate as skin, lung or breast tumors.
Pituitary tumors occur on or near the pituitary gland at the base of the skull. These types of tumors can have an adverse effect on the function of the pituitary gland — largely responsible for controlling the body’s glandular system, which produces and regulates vital hormones. Pituitary tumors are more likely to be benign than many other types of brain tumors, but their proximity to the pituitary gland and the brain still makes them very dangerous. They are normally removed surgically, and recurrence is not as prevalent as with malignant tumors.
Other malignant brain tumors include PNET tumors, which are very invasive and can occur anywhere in the brain. They are associated with severe headaches caused by increased cranial pressure. They often occur near the cerebellum, where they are referred to as medulloblastomas. Aggressive treatment is called for to halt PNET tumors from metastasizing and moving throughout the central nervous system.
The most common benign types of brain tumors are meningiomas. Meningiomas occur in the tissue that protects the brain and is found next to the skull. Meningiomas are slow-growing and patients are often unaware of them for many years before they are detected. They are generally treated by surgery with a good success rate, though they occasionally recur or become malignant.