Brain Cancer


Brain cancer is a serious disease that occurs at a primary site in the brain or occurs elsewhere in the body and spreads to the brain. Often called a brain tumor, this description is misleading as brain tumors can be cancerous or non-cancerous. Cancerous brain tumors may present a variety of symptoms including headaches and memory loss. Treatment will vary based on where the cancer is located.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Brain cancer can cause a variety of neurological symptoms depending upon its location and size. Those affected by brain cancer may experience frequent and severe headaches, nausea, hearing and vision problems, difficulty with speech, memory and behavior or changes in personality. Tingling or numbness in an extremity, problems with balance and coordination and sudden onset of seizures are also symptoms of brain cancer.

In order to diagnose brain cancer, a doctor may perform several tests beginning with a neurological exam. This tests the eyes and ears for symptoms of vision or hearing loss. It also checks reflexes, balance and coordination. Neurological symptoms may be the first sign of brain cancer and specific symptoms can help determine where the tumor may be located. Imaging tests such as MRI, CT scans or PET scans may be used to pinpoint tumor location, determine size and plan treatment. Sometimes, brain cancer starts in other areas of the body. If this case is suspected, doctors may test for cancer in other areas of the body to plan appropriate treatment. A tissue sample – called a biopsy – is often performed on tumors to determine whether they are cancerous or benign.


Most cases of brain cancer are secondary cases. That is, brain cancer is most often caused by the spread of cancer from other areas of the body such as the breasts, lungs or kidneys. Primary brain cancer – cancer that originates in the brain – is less common. These primary cancers are caused by DNA mutations in healthy cells. These cells multiply quickly and live longer than they should, resulting in a tumor. Continue reading for Prevention and Treatment information . . .

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