The brain can develop cancer in a few different ways. Cancer that actually begins in the cells of the brain is typically referred to as a primary brain tumor. Cancer can also spread to the brain cells from other parts of the body. When this occurs, it's known as metastatic cancer.
Primary brain tumors usually derive their name from the part of the brain that they infect. For example, an astrocytoma affects brain cells called astrocytes, and a meningioma develops in the meninges portion of the brain. Medulloblastoma, ependymoma and brain stem glioma are other examples of the many different types of brain tumors that can develop.
Symptoms of a brain tumor can often mimic other conditions and may be difficult to identify as brain cancer. Some possibilities for brain cancer symptoms include headache, seizures, vision or hearing loss, difficulty with speech, changes in behavior or even stroke. Because these symptoms frequently overlap with other neurological disorders, a brain scan is usually required to determine the presence of a tumor. A biopsy, in which a sample of tissue is taken in order to look for tumors, is also frequently required to determine the presence of cancer, though sometimes this biopsy is performed at the same time as the treatment of the cancer to minimize the invasiveness of the procedure.
Treatment of Brain Cancer
Possible treatments for brain tumors vary quite a bit based on the size and location of the tumor in the brain, as well as the person's overall health and risk factors. Usually, however, the first step is removal of the tumor, usually through some type of surgical procedure. After that, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a combination of the two treatments are used to eradicate the cancer from surrounding tissue and hopefully prevent its recurrence.
SOURCES: U.S. National Cancer Institute; National Brain Tumor Society.