There are many different types of brain tumors. Brain tumors can be broadly classified as either primary or secondary. Primary brain tumors originate from within the brain itself. Secondary tumors spread to the brain from other parts of the bodyÛÓmost commonly the lung, breast, or kidney. Brain tumors can be benign or malignant.
Patients with brain tumors can present with a variety of symptoms and signs depending on the location of the tumor. Common presenting symptoms include headache, confusion, difficulty with memory, and seizures. If the tumor is near eloquent areas of the brain, patients can also present with motor weakness in the face, arm, or leg, or with difficulty with speech. Nausea and vomiting may also be a presenting symptom.
Depending on the severity of the symptoms, most patients will first be seen by their primary care physician or present to the emergency department. Work up will include a complete history and physical examination. Additional diagnostic information will usually be obtained with either an MRI of the brain or a head CT. At that point, patients will be referred to see a neurosurgeon.
Treatment of most brain tumors will usually include surgery for removal of the tumor. Surgery also provides the benefit of obtaining tissue for the pathologist in order to determine the exact type of tumor and to help guide additional treatment if needed. Surgery can be made safer by utilizing computer navigational guidance, use of an intraoperative MRI, and tumor removal with an intraoperative microscope. Depending on the type of brain tumor, additional treatment may include chemotherapy or radiation therapy after surgery.