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Brain Tumors

Brain and pituitary tumors are abnormal tissue growths caused by uncontrolled cell division. In normal tissue, cells are replaced as old ones die, but in tumors, the cell growth is rapid. The type of brain tumor is named after the cells that are growing. Some tumors are primary ones that begin in the brain, while others are secondary tumors that arise from another primary cancer in the body. The most common cancers that spread to the brain are lung and breast cancer. The type of treatment varies based on the type of tumor, its location and size and the overall health status of the patient. Surgery or a combination of treatments may be curative, while in others it may be done to provide palliative care.

When the tumor begins in the brain (primary tumor), it usually does not spread in the body. These primary tumors can be benign or malignant. Even though a tumor may be classified as benign, it still can cause problems and can even be life-threatening.

A malignant or cancerous brain tumor normally grows quickly and can spread to areas near the brain, such as the spinal cord.

Since the brain is a confined region, enclosed within the skull, there is little room for any type of growth. This can result in a host of problems, including compression and displacement of normal brain tissue. These tumors can block the cerebrospinal fluid that circulates through the brain, causing intracranial pressure and hydrocephalus.

There are more than 120 types of brain tumors including:

Benign tumors:

  • Chordomas
  • Craniopharyngiomas
  • Gangliocytomas, gangliomas and anaplastic gangliogliomas
  • Glomus jugulare tumors
  • Meningiomas
  • Pineocytomas
  • Pituitary adenomas
  • Schwannomas

Malignant tumors are typically Gliomas, including:

  • Astrocytomas
  • Ependymomas
  • Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM)
  • Medulloblastomas
  • Oligodendrogliomas

While brain tumor symptoms vary by type, in general, they include:

  • Headaches, seizures or convulsions
  • Confusion
  • Impaired ability to speak or articulate thoughts
  • Behavior changes
  • Numbness, weakness or loss of use of one side or both sides of the body
  • Dizziness
  • Visual and auditory changes
  • Loss of feeling in face
  • Nausea/vomiting

Brain tumors normally are treated alone or in combination with surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. At WakeMed, our team of board-certified neurosurgeons can help patients determine the best course of treatment to help remove or provide relief from the symptoms of their tumor. Using the latest imaging technology and surgical techniques, patients are assured of the highest standards of care for their condition.

Learn about some common brain surgeries offered at WakeMed: