Brain Cancer

Brain Tumors

The brain is the center of thought, memory, emotion, speech, sensation and motor function. The spinal cord and special nerves in the head called cranial nerves carry and receive messages between the brain and the rest of the body.

There are two types of brain tumors:

  • Primary — a tumor that starts in the brain. Primary brain tumors can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant. Primary tumors in the brain or spinal cord rarely spread to distant organs.
  • Metastatic — a tumor caused by cancer elsewhere in the body that spreads to the brain. Metastatic brain tumors are always cancerous.

Brain tumors cause damage because as they grow they can interfere with surrounding cells that serve vital roles in our everyday life.

What Causes Brain Tumors?

The majority of brain tumors have abnormalities of genes involved in cell cycle control, causing uncontrolled cell growth. These abnormalities are caused by alterations directly in the genes or by chromosome rearrangements which change the function of a gene.

Patients with certain genetic conditions (for example, neurofibromatosis, von Hippel-Lindau disease, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, and retinoblastoma) also have an increased risk of developing tumors of the central nervous system. Patients who have received radiation therapy to the head as part of prior treatment for other malignancies are also at an increased risk for new brain tumors.

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