Types of Brain Tumors

Penn Medicine treats all types of brain tumors, regardless of the stage of the tumor. There are over 120 different types of brain tumors recognized by The World Health Organization that fall into three main categories of tumor type including:

  • Extra-axial. Tumors that arise on the surface or undersurface of the brain (skull base), and press on the brain are called extra-axial. They are often encapsulated and can frequently be cured by surgery alone or a combination of surgery with focal radiation therapy. This type of tumor includes pituitary tumors, meningiomas, epidermoid (cholesteatomas) and acoustic neuromas.
  • Glioma. Tumors that arise from within the brain that are derived from the connective tissue of the brain are gliomas. The glial cells "glue" the brain cells (neurons) together. These tumors do not spread outside of the brain, but invade within the brain, and are difficult to cure by surgery alone. These tumors include low-grade gliomas, anaplastic astrocytomas, glioblastomas, oligodendrogliomas and anaplastic oligodendrogliomas.
  • Metastatic. Tumors that migrate or metastasize to the brain are the most common type and are called metastatic. The source of this type of tumor can be a cancer of the lung (non-small cell lung carcinoma or small cell carcinoma), breast, colon, skin (melanoma) or kidney (renal cell carcinoma). Almost any type of cancer can spread or metastasize to the skull or brain. These tumors are often treated with a combination of surgery and/or radiation therapy. Advances in surgery (neuronavigation, computer-assisted microsurgery) and radiation therapy (CyberKnife®, Gamma Knife®, proton therapy) provide several options for achieving tumor control without injuring the surrounding brain.

Common types of brain tumors treated at Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center include:

  • Astrocytic Tumors
  • Embryonal Cell Tumors: Medulloblastoma (Grade IV)
  • Ependymal Tumors
  • Germ Cell Tumors
  • Meningeal Tumors
  • Mixed Gliomas
  • Oligodendroglial Tumors
  • Pineal Parenchymal Tumors
  • Recurrent Brain Tumors
  • Tumors of the Sellar Region: Craniopharyngioma (Grade I) and Pituitary Tumor
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