Cancerous and Noncancerous Tumors in the Brain

A brain tumor occurs when abnormal cells form in the brain. In the past, tumors fell into one of two categories: malignant (cancerous) or benign (noncancerous). Doctors now know that brain tumors fall somewhere along a spectrum of benign and malignant.

There are 150 different types of primary brain tumors. The most common of these include:

  • Anaplastic astrocytoma
  • Astrocytoma
  • Craniopharyngioma
  • Ependymoma
  • Glioma
  • Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM)
  • Lymphoma
  • Medulloblastoma
  • Meningioma
  • Neoplastic meningitis
  • Oligodendroglioma
  • Pituitary adenoma
  • Vestibular schwannoma (acoustic neuroma)

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

Tumor size and location, how far it has spread and brain swelling can affect symptoms. The most common symptoms of brain tumors are:

  • Changes in mental function
  • Changes in vision
  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Weakness in one part of the body

Headaches caused by brain tumors may:

  • Get worse when you wake up in the morning and clear up in a few hours
  • Get worse with coughing, exercise or a change in body position
  • Occur during sleep
  • Occur with vomiting, confusion, double vision, weakness or numbness

Other symptoms can include:

  • Change in alertness (including sleepiness, unconsciousness and coma)
  • Changes in hearing, taste or smell
  • Changes that affect touch and the ability to feel pain, pressure and different temperatures
  • Confusion or memory loss
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty writing or reading
  • Dizziness or abnormal sensation of movement (vertigo)
  • Eye problems, such as eyelid drooping, uncontrollable eye movement and vision difficulties
  • Hand tremor
  • Lack of control over the bladder or bowels
  • Loss of balance or coordination, clumsiness and trouble walking
  • Muscle weakness in the face, arm or leg (usually on just one side)
  • Numbness or tingling on one side of the body
  • Personality, mood, behavior or emotional changes
  • Trouble speaking or understanding others who are speaking

The following tests can be used to diagnose and locate a brain tumor:

  • Computed tomography (CT) scan of the head: takes detailed images of internal organs, bones, soft tissue and blood vessels
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the head: takes detailed pictures to help diagnose tumors and to monitor the effectiveness of treatments
  • Electroencephalogram: a test of brain activity
  • Biopsy: an examination of tissue removed from the tumor during surgery or CT-guided biopsy
  • Lumbar puncture (spinal tap): an examination of the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) to look for cancerous cells

Brain tumors range from harmless to very aggressive. This is why the outlook for patients can vary. Finding the brain tumor early and seeking treatment at a specialized brain tumor center provides the best outcomes.

Experts in Care

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Why Choose Penn State Health for Care

We are a high-volume brain tumor treatment center in central Pennsylvania and treat hundreds of brain tumor patients each year. Our experienced team works together to determine the appropriate treatment plan for each patient to achieve the best results.

Brain Tumor Multidisciplinary Clinic

Our multidisciplinary team is dedicated to exceptional, compassionate and convenient patient care. At our multidisciplinary clinic, patients can schedule one appointment and see all of their specialists on the same day.

Brain Tumor Second Opinion

Being diagnosed with a brain tumor can be a frightening and overwhelming experience. Many people choose to seek a second opinion. We welcome patients from other facilities who would like a second opinion on their diagnosis and treatment options. Our team is typically able to see them within 48 hours.

Brain Tumor Quality of Life

All of our interventions are aimed at maximizing not only quality, but quality of life for our patients. We offer a variety of therapies, many of which are minimally invasive. Additionally, our team includes a nurse navigator and clinical social workers who help patients address quality of life factors, such as finances, nutrition, exercise, transportation and symptom management.

Brain Tumor Clinical Trials

Our team of researchers is passionate about advancing the field of brain tumor treatment. We offer patients the latest clinical trials, which gives them access to leading-edge therapies.

Support Groups

Support groups provide an opportunity to share your feelings and connect with other patients and caregivers who are experiencing similar struggles.

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Convenient Locations

Find the care your family needs, close to home, at one of our many locations throughout central Pennsylvania.

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