Comprehensive brain cancer care at Bryan Health
About brain and spinal cord tumors
Tumors of the brain and spinal cord usually are not cancerous. The chance that a person will have a tumor of the brain or spinal cord in his or her lifetime is less than 1 percent.
A brain tumor is an abnormal growth of cells in the brain or central spine that can affect brain function such as our speech, movement or behavior. Symptoms will depend on where the tumor is located in the brain.
Brain tumors can either be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancer). Benign brain tumors do not contain cancer cells. They grow slowly and do not spread into other tissue. They can become large before causing symptoms and if they can be removed completely, they may not return. Malignant brain tumors start in the cells of the brain or elsewhere in the body and spread to the brain.
There is no known reason for most brain cancers. Radiation treatment to the brain for other reasons or a family history of brain tumors can increase the chance of a brain tumor. Cell phone use has not been found to increase the chance of having a brain tumor.
Tests to look for brain and spinal cord tumors in someone who does not have symptoms is not recommended. Symptoms of tumors in the brain include pressure and swelling, and sometimes cause:
- Headaches that get worse
- Vision changes
- Balance problems such as trouble walking
- Behavior or personality changes
The following tests may be ordered to determine if a brain tumor is present:
- CT scan of the brain
- Brain MRI
- PET scan
In a biopsy, we remove tissue from the brain to see if cancer cells are present. If tests show a brain or spinal cord tumor, a brain surgeon (neurosurgeon) will remove as much of the tumor as possible. A pathologist will examine the cells and identify the type of brain tumor to guide treatment decisions.
After the diagnosis, you and your doctor will discuss treatment options and choose a treatment plan that is right for you. The plan may include radiation therapy, chemotherapy or other therapies. More than one type of treatment may be recommended