Brain Tumors

A cancerous or noncancerous growth in the brain can cause serious damage. Tumors can either destroy tissue or cause problems to other parts of the body because of the pressure put on the brain by the growth.

Brain tumor symptoms depend on its size, growth rate and location. The first symptom is usually a headache that recurs often, is severely painful and is felt constantly without relief for long periods. Difficulty with balance, dizziness, double vision, nausea, vomiting, fever and abnormal pulse and breathing rates can also occur. At the late stages of the disorder, dramatic changes in blood pressure may occur. Seizures are a common symptom of benign brain tumors and slow-growing cancers. Tumors can cause a part of the body to weaken or feel paralyzed. People who display personality changes and confusion should get immediate medical attention.

Causes

Most malignant brain tumors have spread (metastasized) from other tumors in the body to the skull. Cancers of the breast and lung, malignant melanoma and blood cell cancers (such as leukemia and lymphoma) can spread to the brain. Metastasized cells may grow in one or several areas of the brain.

Diagnosis

In addition to a physical examination, the neurologist can confirm the presence of a brain tumor through a CT (computed tomography) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan. These tests can help measure the size and position of the tumor.

A biopsy (sample tissue) of the tumor may be taken to identify the type of tumor and whether it is malignant (cancerous) or not.

Treatment

When possible, brain tumors are removed through surgery. Removing a tumor is necessary when it threatens important brain structures. Sometimes radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy are given after surgery to help destroy any leftover malignant cells. For more information about brain tumor surgery expertise, clinical trials and research, please visit the Brain Tumor Center.

For an appointment, a second opinion or more information, please call 1-800-CEDARS-1 (1-800-233-2771) or email us at neurologicaldisorders@cshs.org.