Types of Brain Tumors

A brain tumor, or lesion, is an abnormal collection of cells that grow out of control. As they continue to grow, they form a mass of cells that becomes a tumor. Brain tumors are classified as either of the following:

  • A primary brain tumor starts with an abnormal brain cell and grows in the brain.
  • A metastatic (secondary) tumor starts as a cancer in another part of the body (such as the lungs or breast) and then spreads to the brain, where it forms a new tumor.

For malignant tumors, we work closely with the Abramson Cancer Center to provide a seamless transition of care.

There are more than 100 types of brain tumors as classified by the World Health Organization. The Penn Brain Tumor Center team provide personalized medical, surgical and therapeutic treatments for all benign and cancerous brain tumors.

The Penn Brain Tumor Center treats all types of brain tumors including:

  • Acoustic Neuroma: Also known as a schwannoma, vestibular schwannoma, or neurilemmoma, this type of tumor typically occurs in middle-aged adults. This is a benign tumor of the nerve sheath and can often affect hearing.
  • Brain Metastases: Metastatic brain tumors are cancers that spread to the brain. Brain metastases can develop from almost any kind of cancer such as breast, lung, and kidney cancers.
  • Cranial Base Tumor: Also known as skull base tumors, are not a particular type of brain tumor, but those that grow in a particular location: the bones of the skull that form the bottom of the head and the body ridge behind the nose and eyes.
  • Ependymoma: Tumors begin in the ependyma, cells that line the passageways in the brain where cerebrospinal fluid is produced and stored. Ependymomas are classified as either supratentorial (in the cerebral hemispheres) or infratentorial (in the back of the brain).
  • Glioma: A primary brain tumor that originates from the supportive cells of the brain, called glial cells. Glioma is an umbrella term used to describe the different types of glial tumors: astrocytoma, oligodendroglioma, and glioblastoma.
  • Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM): It is the most common and serious of malignant primary brain tumors in adults. Also known as glioma, this type of tumor is generally found in the cerebral hemispheres of the brain and grows quickly and aggressively.
  • Medulloblastoma (MDL): Tumors located in the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance and other complex motor functions.
  • Meningioma: Typically a benign and slow-growing tumor that originates from the meninges, which are the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord.
  • Oligodendroglioma: Common among individuals in their 20s-40s, the tumor develops from glial cells called oligodendrocytes.
  • Primary CNS Lymphoma (PCNSL): Tumors are most likely found in close proximity to the ventricles. This type of tumor is sometimes found in those with poor immune systems.

Second Opinion for Brain Tumors

There are many decisions to make and many feelings to process when you've been diagnosed with a brain tumor. Many individuals seek a second opinion from Penn's neurosurgeons to help decide what the best treatment might be.

During a second opinion, a Penn neurosurgeon will review your medical history, current diagnosis and any images that have been taken. It is very important to bring all images, regardless of how long ago they were taken. This will help us determine the tumor's location and growth over time.

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