A medical professional holding an x-ray of a human skull

Brain Tumors

A brain tumor is a mass of abnormal cells that grow in the brain. Brain tumors can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). They can originate in the brain itself or be the result of cancer that has spread from another part of the body. Those that are cancerous frequently grow rapidly, while those that are not tend to grow more slowly.

While benign tumors are generally less worrisome when they occur in other parts of the body, in the brain they often grow large enough to disrupt normal functioning. If they do, surgery is required.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the symptoms of a brain tumor?

    Seizures and severe headaches are usually the first sign a brain tumor might be present. Other symptoms can include cognitive changes, loss of consciousness, and dizziness. Brain tumors can also present with weakness or numbness in just one part of the body. Headaches that are tumor-related are generally unusually severe or will be combined with other symptoms, such as vomiting or fever.

  • How do you know if you have a brain tumor?

    Symptoms of a brain tumor may be mild and subtle or severe and life-threatening, and are usually related to impairment in the area of the brain where the tumor is located. Only a full medical evaluation can determine whether a brain tumor is causing your neurological or other symptoms, which may also be caused by many other conditions.

  • How long does it take for brain tumor symptoms to appear?

    Tumors can grow rapidly or be slow-growing. Tumors are classified according to grades (numbered I to IV) that rank how quickly they grow and spread to other tissues. Tumors called gliomas, which start in glial brain cells, make up more than three-quarters of malignant, quickly growing brain tumors. However, only about a third of brain tumors are gliomas.

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Page Sources
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  1. American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Brain tumors.

  2. American Cancer Society. Types of brain and spinal cord tumors in adults.