Benign tumors are slow growing, noncancerous, and do not spread to surrounding tissue. Malignant tumors, on the other hand, are cancerous. Fast growing and aggressive, they can invade nearby tissue and also are more likely to recur after treatment.


Seizures; weakness of the face, trunk, arms, or legs; slurred speech; difficulty standing or walking, poor coordination; headache; vomiting; personality and behavior changes, emotional instability, rapid emotional changes; loss of memory, impaired judgment; double vision, decreased vision, hearing loss.

About this Condition

Primary vs. Secondary: Primary brain tumors originate in the brain. Secondary brain tumors are made up of cells that have spread (metastasized) to the brain from somewhere else in the body. In children, most brain tumors are primary. The opposite is true in adults.

Benign vs. Malignant: Benign tumors are slow growing, noncancerous, and do not spread to surrounding tissue. Malignant tumors, on the other hand, are cancerous. Fast growing and aggressive, they can invade nearby tissue and also are more likely to recur after treatment.

Localized vs. Invasive: A localized tumor is confined to one area and is generally easier to remove, as long as it is in an accessible part of the brain. An invasive tumor in one that has spread to surrounding areas and is more difficult to remove completely.

The grade of a tumor indicates how aggressive it is. Today, most medical experts use a system designed by the World Health Organization (WHO) to identify brain tumors and help make a prognosis. The lower the grade, the less aggressive the tumor and the greater the chance for a cure. The higher the grade, the more aggressive the tumor and the harder it may be to cure.

Symptom Causes
A brain tumor can cause symptoms in a number of ways:

  • By directly destroying brain cells
  • By causing swelling at the tumor site
  • By causing a buildup of fluid in the brain (hydrocephalus)
  • By increasing pressure within the skull

This content is for your general education only. See your doctor for a professional diagnosis and to discuss an appropriate treatment plan.

Conservative Treatments

Medications for Tumors

Initial treatment of a brain tumor may include steroid medications to reduce swelling and inflammation of brain tissue. Anticonvulsant medications may help prevent or control seizures.

Radiation for Tumors

High-energy radiation can be used to destroy tumor cells in your brain. An advanced form of radiation, stereotactic radiosurgery, precisely focuses radiation beams to a tumor. Gamma knife stereotactic radiosurgery delivers radiation beams in the exact size and shape of the tumor, with the aid of brain-imaging techniques.


Chemotherapeutic drugs, taken by mouth or intravenously, can help kill cancerous tumor cells. Researchers are studying new ways to deliver cancer-fighting drugs to brain tumors. For instance, biodegradable wafers containing cancer-fighting drugs are being implanted in some tumors during surgery.


Stereotaxic Localization and Biopsy

Your neurosurgeon may perform this minimally invasive procedure to take a sample of tissue from a brain tumor. A three-dimensional brain scan taken just before the biopsy gives the surgeon the precise location of the tumor. A thin biopsy needle can then be inserted directly into the tumor. The tissue taken provides valuable information for diagnosing the tumor type and grade and for developing a specific treatment plan.

Tumor Removal

Surgery is the mainstay of brain tumor treatment. It involves removing as much of the tumor as possible while trying to minimize damage to healthy tissue. Some tumors can be removed completely, while others can be removed only partially or not all. If a tumor is slow growing, doctors may not operate immediately, but take a watch-and-wait approach.

Doctors treat many brain tumors with a combination of therapies. Because a tumor may recur if any tumor cells are left behind, the goal is to remove as much, if not all, of the tumor as possible through surgery. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are used to treat tumors that can't be removed by surgery alone.

Pituitary Tumor Resection

Most pituitary tumors can be removed transsphenoidally—that is, by entering the nose and going through the sphenoid sinus located behind the nose. The neurosurgeon threads either an endoscope or an operating microscope through the sphenoid sinus to reach and remove the pituitary tumor.

Your neurosurgeon may be able to remove a brain tumor using minimally invasive techniques such as an endoscope for pituitary tumors.

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Please keep in mind that all treatments and outcomes are specific to the individual patient. Results may vary. Complications, such as infection, blood loss, and bowel or bladder problems are some of the potential adverse risks of surgery. Please consult your physician for a complete list of indications, warnings, precautions, adverse events, clinical results and other important medical information.