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Important Things to Know About Brain Tumors

Of the nearly 80,000 brain tumors diagnosed in the U.S. each year, approximately 32% are considered malignant

Important Things to Know About Brain Tumors

What is Brain Tumor?

Of the nearly 80,000 brain tumors diagnosed in the U.S. each year, approximately 32% are considered malignant – or cancerous. Overall, the chance that a person will develop a malignant tumor of the brain or spinal cord in his or her lifetime is less than 1%. Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the deadliest type of brain cancer, accounting for 45% of all malignant brain tumors.

Primary brain cancer is rare.

A primary malignant brain tumor is a rare type of cancer accounting for only about 1.4% of all new cancer cases in the U.S. The most common brain tumors are known as secondary tumors, meaning they have metastasized, or spread, to the brain from other parts of the body such as the lungs, breasts, colon or prostate.

The cause of brain cancer is usually unknown.

Most people diagnosed with a primary brain tumor do not have any known risk factors. However, certain risk factors and genetic conditions have been shown to increase a person’s chances of developing one, including:

  • The risk of a brain tumor increases as you age.
  • People who have been exposed to ionizing radiation—such as radiation therapy used to treat cancer and radiation exposure caused by atomic bombs– have an increased risk of brain tumor.
  • Rare genetic disorders like Von Hippel-Lindau disease, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, and Neurofibromatosis (NF1 and NF2) may raise the risk of developing certain types of brain tumors. Otherwise, there is little evidence that brain cancer runs in families.

Typically brain tumors don’t have obvious symptoms.

Headaches that get worse over time are a symptom of many ailments including brain tumors. Other symptoms may include personality changes, eye weakness, nausea or vomiting, difficulty speaking or comprehending and short-term memory loss.

Even benign or non-cancerous tumors can be serious and life threatening. If you experience these symptoms, speak with your doctor right away.

Brain tumors can occur at any age.

Primary brain tumors—those that begin in the brain—can develop at any age, but they are most common in children and older adults. While brain tumors are one of the most common cancers occurring in children 0-14 years, the average age of diagnosis is 59 years. [iii]

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