Brain cancer

There are many different types, grades and forms of brain tumours and brain cancer. A brain tumour is an abnormal mass of cells growing in the brain.

There are two basic kinds of brain tumours – primary brain tumours and metastatic brain tumours.

Brain tumours are categorised according to where the tumour originated, its pattern of growth and whether it is benign or cancerous. The tumour is also graded by its degree of malignancy and its chances of growing and spreading. There are approximately 130 different types of brain tumour. Names of the more common varieties include: gliomas (astrocytomas, glioblastomas, oligodendrogliomas, ependymomas and mixed cell type gliomas) meningiomas, medulloblastomas and central nervous system lymphomas.

Brain tumours can be benign or malignant.  Malignant brain tumours are also called brain cancer.

Primary brain tumours

A tumour that starts in the brain is a primary brain tumour. Primary brain tumours may be grouped into “benign” and “malignant” tumours. Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), astrocytoma, medulloblastoma and ependymoma are examples of primary brain tumours.

A benign tumour consists of very slow growing cells, usually has distinct borders, and rarely spreads. Treatment and/or surgery is often effective, however, if a benign tumour is located in a vital area of the brain, it can be considered life-threatening.

Malignant brain tumours vary widely both in the way they grow and the way they respond to treatment. Some are neatly contained within a capsule (encapsulated) and relatively easy to remove. Others have long, thin filaments spreading through the brain, like the roots of a plant.

Metastatic brain tumours

Metastatic brain tumours begin as cancer elsewhere in the body and spread to the brain.  All metastatic brain tumours are malignant since they begin as cancer elsewhere in the body. Most common metastatic brain tumours start in the lung, breast, colon (bowel), or skin (melanoma).

More information

For more information about metastatic cancer visit Cancer Council Australia, or Cancer Australia . For more on brain cancer visit Cure Brain Cancer Foundation.

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