Brain cancer is an incredibly detrimental and frightening illness to endure. There isn’t simply one form of brain cancer. There are actually several different types. In this article, we will discover the types of brain cancer, relevant symptoms, and potential alternative brain cancer treatment options.
For adults, the most common types of brain cancer include astrocytomas, meningiomas, and oligodendrogliomas.
Astrocytomas occur in the largest region of the brain, the cerebrum. The small, star-shaped cells that develop are called astrocytes. They can be at any grade. The cerebrum uses sensory information in order to determine how the body responds. The cerebrum is also in charge of controlling speech, movement and emotions, as well as reading, thinking, and learning. These tumors often cause seizures or lead to changes in behavior.1,2
One type of astrocytoma forms in the brainstem called brain stem gliomas, which form in the glial cells and control various vital functions including body temperature, blood pressure, breathing, hunger, and thirst. The brain stem is in the lowest part of the brain and transmits all signals to the body from the brain. It can be difficult to treat tumors in this area. Most brain stem gliomas are high-grade astrocytomas.2
Meningiomas are the most common primary tumors in adults. Meningiomas begin in the meninges, the lining of the brain and account for approximately 15 percent of all intracranial tumors. They may be grades 1, 2, or 3. They are often benign and slow-growing. They can be removed with surgery, although some meningiomas may not need to be treated immediately and could be undetected for years.2
Oligodendrogliomas occur in cells that make myelin, which is a fatty covering protecting nerves within the brain and spinal cord. They are usually grades 1, 2, or 3. They often are slow-growing and don’t spread to nearby tissue. These types of tumors are very rare and often occur in the cerebrum. They are most common in middle-aged adults and have more favorable outcomes than astrocytomas.2
There is a small gland inside the skull called a pituitary, located below the brain and above the nasal passages. The pituitary tumors are lumps that form in the pituitary gland. This gland produces hormones controlling levels of other hormones secreted by endocrine glands throughout the body, which gives the necessary role of controlling vital body functions and the hormonal system. The pituitary gland consists of four parts: the front lobe (anterior), back lobe (posterior), and the intermediate area between the two lobes and stalk connecting the pituitary to the interbrain. Most pituitary tumors form in the anterior lobe. It is rare for tumors to develop in the posterior lobe. Pituitary tumors represent around 9-12% of brain tumors.2
Pituitary cancers are very rare, with only a few hundred that have been documented in the United States, based on the American Cancer Society. Since pituitary cancers and benign adenomas look very similar beneath a microscope, the carcinomas are only usually diagnosed upon it spreading to other regions of the body.2
So How Does Brain Cancer Form?
Brain cancer originates with brain tumors. But, how do brain tumors form? A brain tumor is defined as a group of cells within the brain that do not populate as normal. There are over 120 various types of brain tumors according to the National Brain Tumor Society. What separates tumors apart from one another is the speed at which they grow. Some tumors are more fast-growing, and others can be slow-growing and benign. The two general groups of brain tumors include primary and secondary brain tumors.1,2
Primary Vs. Secondary Brain Tumors
Primary brain tumors begin in the brain tissue and typically remain in the tissue. They are categorized based on the type of cell or where in the brain they first are developed. The most common primary brain tumors are called gliomas, originating in the glial (supportive) tissue. Around one-third of primary brain tumors originate from the glial cells. 2 Secondary, or metastatic, brain tumors are typically more common. These begin in other regions of the body and spread to the brain. Some examples of cancers that spread to the brain include lung, breast, kidney, colon, and skin cancer.1
Not All Brain Tumors are Cancerous
There are some brain tumors that contain cancer cells and others that do not, which are called benign brain tumors. These tumors grow slowly, are usually able to be removed, and are less likely to spread to the surrounding brain tissue. While they are not cancerous, benign tumors can still create problems if pressed upon certain areas of the brain and cause side effects such as headaches, fatigue, or double vision. This can be life-threatening depending on the part of the brain the tumor is located in.1,2
Malignant brain tumors are those that contain cancer cells. These rates of growth vary, but the cells are able to disturb the healthy brain tissue surrounding. It is rare for malignant tumors to advance past the brain or spinal cord.1
It’s vital to get a thorough and precise diagnosis of a brain tumor to better understand the severity of the tumor.
Understanding the Grades of Brain Tumors
Tumors are usually graded by how normal or abnormal the cells look. The measurement is used to plan out the appropriate treatment. Grading of brain tumors is also useful in determining how fast the tumor may grow and spread.
Grade 1: The cells look nearly normal and are slow-growing. The long-term survival of the cells is likely.
Grade 2: The cells look somewhat abnormal and are slow-growing. This type of tumor could spread to surrounding tissue and relapse again, potentially at a more life-threatening grade.
Grade 3: The cells are abnormal-looking and aggressively expanding into nearby tissue. These tumors are likely to return again.
Grade 4: The cells look abnormal and are likely to quickly spread.
Tumors can change from benign to malignant and from a lower-grade tumor to a higher-grade tumor.1
Other Types of Brain Tumors
Some other brain tumors include craniopharyngiomas, germ cell tumors, pineal region tumors, Medulloblastoma, and Primary CNS lymphomas.
Craniopharyngiomas develop near the pituitary gland in the brain. These types of brain tumors are usually benign. This means that they generally do not spread into neighboring tissue, nor can they break off and travel to other parts of the body via the bloodstream or lymph system. However, some craniopharyngiomas can be considered malignant due to the fact that they can grow and cause intracranial pressure or damage the hypothalamus and affect vital functions, including body temperature, hunger, and thirst. These tumors often occur in children and adolescents or adults over the age of 50 years.2
Germ cell tumors come from developing sex (egg or sperm) cells, also known as germ cells. Germinoma is the most common cell tumor in the brain. They can also form in the ovaries, testicles, chest, and abdomen. Most germ cell tumors are present in children. Germ cell tumors can be both cancerous and noncancerous, though most germ cell cancers that are considered cancerous start as testicular cancer or ovarian cancer Germ cell tumors occurring outside the gonads tend to be rare. Thankfully, these types of tumors can be cured, even at later stages of progression. 2
Pineal region tumors develop in or near the pineal gland, which is a small organ that is located in the center of the brain. This gland produces melatonin, a hormone that plays a significant role in the sleep-wake cycle. These types of brain cancer tumors can be slow-growing, referred to as pineocytoma, or fast-growing, referred to as pineoblastoma. Pineoblastomas tend to be considered cancerous because of their more aggressive growth rate, while pineocytomas are generally considered benign. Because the pineal region is difficult to reach, removing these tumors would require a high level of surgical expertise.2
Medulloblastomas are aggressive tumors in the brain that grow from the neurons located in the cerebellum. Medulloblastomas are considered cancerous due to their fast growth. While they rarely spread outside of the brain, medulloblastomas can easily spread to areas of the brain through the cerebrospinal fluid, which is the spinal fluid protecting your brain and spinal cord. The cerebellum is the area in the lower back of the brain in responsible movement, balance, and posture. These tumors are generally discovered in children or young adults.
Primary CNS lymphomas develop in the lymph tissue of the brain or spinal cord. These lymphomas are malignant and can spread to other parts of the body via the lymph system. Primary central nervous system lymphoma usually starts in the brain, spinal cord, or meninges. It may also appear in the eyes because of their proximity to the brain. People with compromised immune systems are most often likely to have these types of brain tumors.
From A Tumor to Cancer
When abnormal cells grow unregulated, they may eventually form into masses of tissue known as tumors. Tumors are categorized as malignant or benign. Benign tumors are noncancerous. They are unable to spread to other tissue or grow at a rate that is so slow that they are unlikely to cause issues. Granted, benign tumors can still potentially become a problem as they may put pressure on nerves, blood vessels, or organs.
Malignant tumors are usually aggressive and can easily grow rapidly and spread into nearby tissue. Malignant tumors are also more likely to break away and travel to faraway parts of the body.
Generally, these are two separate categories, though benign tumors can potentially become cancerous. For example, colon polyps and noncancerous moles may turn into cancer later. This is why a tumor of any kind should be monitored closely.
Brain Cancer Treatment
Treating brain cancer will vary based on the type and grade of cancer, what part of the brain it is located, its size, and the patient’s age and health. This is why understanding your brain cancer will be the first step to finding treatment.
The most common and first form of treatment is surgery. This may be enough for treating grade one tumors as it’s possible that the cancer can be completely removed. If the cancer isn’t removed, surgery can at least impact the reduction of size and ease brain cancer symptoms.
Radiation therapy is used after the surgery in order to remove and kill any tumor cells that may remain in the area of the tumor. In the case that surgery would not be an option, it may be only radiation therapy that would be conducted.
Chemotherapy is another treatment option used in order to kill brain cancer cells. Chemotherapy is administered by mouth or through an IV.
Targeted therapy could be treated for certain types of brain tumors. The drugs in targeted therapy may attack specific cancerous cells and assist in stopping the metastatic tumors from growing and spreading further.
Alternative brain cancer treatment options include combined therapies, which doctors may recommend depending on the situation.
Support through Natural Alternatives
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