Brain tumours are usually named after the types of brain cells from which they have developed. This information gives brief details about the main types of malignant and benign brain tumour that exist.
Some tumours develop from the supporting cells of the brain known as the glial cells. They may be named after the type of cell that they are made up of, or after the part of the brain in which they are found. More than half of all primary brain tumours are gliomas.
Types of Glioma
Astrocytic Tumours - This is the most common type of glioma and develops from star-shaped cells called astrocytes. Grade 4 astrocytic gliomas and grade 3 astrocytic gliomas are the commonest brain tumours found in adults.
Oligodendroglioma - These are tumours that are made up of cells known as oligodendrocytes, which produce the fatty covering of nerve cells known as the myelin sheath. They are usually slower growing than astrocytic tumours.
Mixed Glioma - Gliomas can be made up of a mixture of different types of glial cells, and the most common are oligo-astrocytomas.
Ependymoma - A rare type of glioma, ependymomas develop from the ependymal cells, which line the ventricles of the brain and the central canal of the spinal cord. These tumours have the potential to spread to other parts of the brain and spinal cord.
Grading of Gliomas
Grading is a term that refers to the appearance of the tumour cells under the microscope. A Consultant Pathologist who specializes in brain tumours will examine the cells and look at whether they are dividing slowly or more quickly, and how abnormal they look.
The grade gives an idea of how quickly the tumour may develop. There are four grades: grade 1 tumours are the least malignant and grow only very slowly, whereas grade 4 tumours are more malignant and grow faster. Sometimes grade 1 and 2 gliomas are called low-grade gliomas and grades 3 and 4 are called high-grade gliomas. Your treatment options and recommendations will depend on the type and grade of your tumour.
Medulloblastomas are one of the most common malignant brain tumours in children, but are less common in adults. They usually develop in the cerebellum at the back of the brain but may spread to other parts of the brain. Very occasionally, these tumours spread outside the brain to the lymph nodes or lungs.
Central Nervous System (CNS) Lymphoma
A lymphoma is a malignant tumour of the lymphatic system, which is part of the body's immune system. In rare cases, these tumours only affect the brain. They are then called primary CNS Lymphoma.
Pineal Region Tumours
The pineal gland is just below the area where the two cerebral hemispheres join. This type of tumour is extremely rare. They can be made up of different types of cells. The most common tumours are germinomas; others include teratomas, pineocytomas and pineoblastomas.
A meningioma arises from the meninges, the covering of the brain. They can occur in any part of the meninges over the brain or spinal cord and usually grow very slowly. Most meningiomas are benign and do not spread from the area where they started. Malignant meningiomas are very rare.
Acoustic Neuroma (also known as Vestibular Schwannoma, & Neurilemoma) are benign tumours that develop in the acoustic or auditory nerve, which controls hearing and balance. The nerve is covered by Schwann cells. The tumour arises from these cells, so it is also known as a Schwannoma. Acoustic Neuromas are usually found only in adults and are more common in people who have a genetic disease called neurofibromatosis.
This is a rare type of tumour that develops from the cells that line the blood vessels. Haemangioblastoma are benign and grow slowly. It may take several years for symptoms to appear.
The pituitary gland produces hormones that control and regulate the other hormone-producing glands of the body. Pituitary tumours are benign and are also called pituitary adenomas. Symptoms often occur due to disturbances in vision or hormone levels.
Secondary Brain Tumours
Some types of primary cancers may spread to the brain. These tumours are then known as secondary brain tumours or metastases.
Treatments for Brain Tumours
Surgery, Radiotherapy or Chemotherapy may be used alone or in combination to treat brain tumours. The choice of treatment will depend on whether you have a primary or secondary brain tumour.
Surgery can range from having a biopsy to find out which type of tumour is present, to a major operation where the tumour is completely removed through conventional surgical methods or Stereotactic Radiosurgery. http://www.radiosurgery.co.uk
Following investigations to find out exactly what type of brain tumour is present, your Consultant will plan your treatment with you by taking into consideration a number of factors, such as the particular type of tumour, its location and accessibility and your general health, requirements and wishes.
With most primary brain tumours, surgery is often the required first treatment. However, certain low-grade gliomas, may be carefully monitored if they are not causing problems, and others may be treated with radiotherapy alone. Rare tumours of the brain, such as germinomas or lymphomas, are sometimes treated without an operation, using a combination of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
If a tumour has not been completely removed, or if there is a chance that abnormal cells may be left behind following surgery, radiotherapy will usually be given after the operation.
In addition to surgery, the administration of anticonvulsant medicines to prevent epileptic fits and steroids to reduce any inflammation and swelling around the tumour, may also be necessary.
The London Brain Centre has a rapid access facility with 24 hour cover for any patient or patients GP who wish to organise an urgent referral for investigation.
The London Brain Centre team are also available to offer 2nd opinion or take over the case of any patient, where advanced resources and technology to deliver optimum care to patients suffering with a brain tumour would be of value.