An adult brain tumor is a disease in which abnormal cells form in the tissues of the brain.
There are many types of brain and spinal cord tumors. The tumors are formed by the abnormal growth of cells and may
begin in different parts of the brain or spinal cord. Together, the brain and spinal cord make up the central nervous
The tumors may be either benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer): Benign brain and spinal cord tumors grow and
press on nearby areas of the brain. They rarely spread into other tissues and may come back. Malignant brain and spinal
cord tumors are likely to grow quickly and spread into other brain tissue.
When a tumor grows into or presses on an area of the brain, it may stop that part of the brain from working the way it
should. Both benign and malignant brain tumors cause symptoms and need treatment.
The spinal cord connects the brain to nerves in most parts of the body. The spinal cord is a column of nerve tissue that
runs from the brain stem down the center of the back. It is covered by three thin layers of tissue called membranes.
These membranes are surrounded by the vertebrae (back bones). Spinal cord nerves carry messages between the brain
and the rest of the body, such as a signal from the brain that makes muscles move or a signal from the skin to the brain
that it senses heat.
Brain and spinal cord tumors
Brain and spinal cord tumors are named based on the type of cell they formed in and where the tumor first formed in the
CNS. The grade of a tumor may be used to tell the difference between slow-growing and fast-growing types of the tumor.
The grade of a tumor is based on how abnormal the cancer cells look under a microscope and how quickly the tumor is
likely to grow and spread.
Tumor Grading System
Grade I (low-grade) — The tumor grows slowly, has cells that look a lot like normal cells, and rarely spreads into nearby
tissues. Grade I brain tumors may be cured if they are completely removed by surgery.
Grade II — The tumor grows slowly, but may spread into nearby tissue and may recur (come back). Some tumors may
become a higher-grade tumor.
Grade III — The tumor grows quickly, is likely to spread into nearby tissue, and the tumor cells look very different from
Grade IV (high-grade) — The tumor grows and spreads very quickly and the cells do not look like normal cells. There
may be areas of dead cells in the tumor. Grade IV tumors usually cannot be cured.
The following types of tumors can form in the brain or spinal cord:
An astrocytic tumor begins in star-shaped brain cells called astrocytes, which help keep nerve cells healthy. An astrocyte
is a type of glial cell. Glial cells sometimes form tumors called gliomas. Astrocytic tumors include the following:
Brain stem glioma (usually high grade): A brain stem glioma forms in the brain stem, which is the part of the brain
connected to the spinal cord. It is often a high-grade tumor, which spreads widely through the brain stem and is hard to
cure. Brain stem gliomas are rare in adults.
Pineal astrocytic tumor (any grade): A pineal astrocytic tumor forms in tissue around the pineal gland and may be any
grade. The pineal gland is a tiny organ in the brain that makes melatonin, a hormone that helps control the sleeping and
Pilocytic astrocytoma (grade I): A pilocytic astrocytoma grows slowly in the brain or spinal cord. It may be in the form of a
cyst and rarely spreads into nearby tissues. Pilocytic astrocytomas can often be cured.
Diffuse astrocytoma (grade II): A diffuse astrocytoma grows slowly, but often spreads into nearby tissues. The tumor cells
look something like normal cells. In some cases, a diffuse astrocytoma can be cured. It is also called a low-grade diffuse
Anaplastic astrocytoma (grade III): An anaplastic astrocytoma grows quickly and spreads into nearby tissues. The tumor
cells look different from normal cells. This type of tumor usually cannot be cured. An anaplastic astrocytoma is also called
a malignant astrocytoma or high-grade astrocytoma.
Glioblastoma (grade IV): A glioblastoma grows and spreads very quickly. The tumor cells look very different from normal
cells. This type of tumor usually cannot be cured. It is also called glioblastoma multiforme.
An oligodendroglial tumor begins in brain cells called oligodendrocytes, which help keep nerve cells healthy. An
oligodendrocyte is a type of glial cell. Oligodendrocytes sometimes form tumors called oligodendrogliomas. Grades of
oligodendroglial tumors include the following:
Oligodendroglioma (grade II): An oligodendroglioma grows slowly, but often spreads into nearby tissues. The tumor cells
look something like normal cells. In some cases, an oligodendroglioma can be cured.
Anaplastic oligodendroglioma (grade III): An anaplastic oligodendroglioma grows quickly and spreads into nearby tissues.
The tumor cells look different from normal cells. This type of tumor usually cannot be cured.
A mixed glioma is a brain tumor that has two types of tumor cells in it — oligodendrocytes and astrocytes. This type of
mixed tumor is called an oligoastrocytoma.
Oligoastrocytoma (grade II): An oligoastrocytoma is a slow-growing tumor. The tumor cells look something like normal
cells. In some cases, an oligoastrocytoma can be cured.
Anaplastic oligoastrocytoma (grade III): An anaplastic oligoastrocytoma grows quickly and spreads into nearby tissues.
The tumor cells look different from normal cells. This type of tumor has a worse prognosis than oligoastrocytoma (grade
An ependymal tumor usually begins in cells that line the fluid -filled spaces in the brain and around the spinal cord. An
ependymal tumor may also be called an ependymoma. Grades of ependymomas include the following:
Ependymoma (grade I or II): A grade I or II ependymoma grows slowly and has cells that look something like normal cells.
There are two types of grade I ependymoma — myxopapillary ependymoma and subependymoma. A grade II
ependymoma grows in a ventricle (fluid-filled space in the brain) and its connecting paths or in the spinal cord. In some
cases, a grade I or II ependymoma can be cured.
Anaplastic ependymoma (grade III): An anaplastic ependymoma grows quickly and spreads into nearby tissues. The
tumor cells look different from normal cells. This type of tumor usually has a worse prognosis than a grade I or II
Medulloblastomas A medulloblastoma is a type of embryonal tumor.
Pineal Parenchymal Tumors
A pineal parenchymal tumor forms in parenchymal cells or pineocytes, which are the cells that make up most of the pineal
gland. These tumors are different from pineal astrocytic tumors. Grades of pineal parenchymal tumors include the
Pineocytoma (grade II): A pineocytoma is a slow-growing pineal tumor.
Pineoblastoma (grade IV): A pineoblastoma is a rare tumor that is very likely to spread.
A meningeal tumor, also called a meningioma, forms in the meninges (thin layers of tissue that cover the brain and spinal
cord). Types of meningeal tumors include: meningioma (grade I) , meningloma (grade II and III) and hemangiopericytoma.
A grade I meningioma is the most common type of meningeal tumor. A grade I meningioma is a slow-growing tumor. It
forms most often in the dura mater. A grade I meningioma can be cured if it is completely removed by surgery.
Meningioma (grade II and III) grows quickly and is likely to spread within the brain and spinal cord. The tumor usually
cannot be completely removed by surgery.
A hemangiopericytoma is not a meningeal tumor but is treated like a grade II or III meningioma. A hemangiopericytoma
usually forms in the dura mater. The tumor usually cannot be completely removed by surgery.
Germ Cell Tumors
A germ cell tumor forms in germ cells, which are the cells that develop into sperm in men or ova (eggs) in women. There
are different types of germ cell tumors. These include germinomas, teratomas, embryonal yolk sac carcinomas, and
choriocarcinomas. Germ cell tumors can be either benign or malignant.
Craniopharyngioma (Grade I)
A craniopharyngioma is a rare tumor that usually forms just above the pituitary gland (a pea-sized organ at the bottom of
the brain that controls other glands). Craniopharyngiomas can form from different types of brain or spinal cord cells. They
begin in the center of the brain, just above the back of the nose.
Recurrent Brain Tumors
A recurrent brain tumor is a tumor that has recurred (come back) after it has been treated. Brain tumors often recur,
sometimes many years after the first tumor. The tumor may recur at the same place in the brain or in other parts of the
central nervous system.
Having certain genetic syndromes may affect the risk of a brain tumor.
Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that
you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. Talk with your doctor if you think you
may be at risk. There are few known risk factors for brain tumors. The following conditions may increase the risk of
certain types of brain tumors:
Being exposed to vinyl chloride may increase the risk of glioma.
Infection with the Epstein-Barr virus, having AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), or receiving an organ
transplant may increase the risk of primary CNS lymphoma. (See the PDQ summary on Primary CNS Lymphoma for more
Having certain genetic syndromes may increase the risk brain tumors:
Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) or 2 (NF2).
von Hippel-Lindau disease.
Turcot syndrome type 1 or 2.
Nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome.
The cause of most adult brain and spinal cord tumors is unknown.
The symptoms of adult brain and spinal cord tumors are not the same in every person.
The symptoms caused by a primary brain tumor depend on where the tumor begins in the brain, what that part of the
brain controls, and the size of the tumor. Headaches and other symptoms may be caused by brain tumors. Other
conditions, including cancer that has spread to the brain, may cause the same symptoms. Check with your doctor if you
have any of the following problems:
Morning headache or headache that goes away after vomiting.
Frequent nausea and vomiting.
Loss of appetite.
Vision, hearing, and speech problems.
Loss of balance and trouble walking.
Unusual sleepiness or change in activity level.
Changes in personality, mood, ability to focus, or behavior.
Spinal Cord Tumors
Back pain or pain that spreads from the back towards the arms or legs.
A change in bowel habits or trouble urinating.
Weakness in the legs.
"Researchers from Nanjing University shouls that a polysaccharide extracted from a cultivated Cordyceps sinensis fungus
significantly enhanced superoxide dismutase activity of liver, brain and serum as well as glutathione peroxidase activity of
liver and brain in tumor-bearing mice. It also inhibited H22 tumor growth in the mice.
In a study, researchers supplied 22- to 57-year-old cancer patients in stages II-IV with a combination of MD-fraction and
whole maitake powder. They observed cancer regression or significant symptom improvement in 58.3 percent of liver
cancer patients, 68.8 percent of breast cancer patients, and 62.5 percent of lung cancer patients. However, the trial
found a less than10-20 percent improvement for leukemia, stomach cancer, and brain cancer patients."
Further, US patent application 20050276872 claims using Wenguanguo or Xanthoceras sorbifolia to treat cancers
including brain cancer.
THIS WEBSITE TALKS ABOUT THE SIDE EFFECTS AND THE POTENTIAL HEALTH BENEFITS OF HERBS, SUPPLEMENTS. However, the information in this
website is for reference only. Please, discuss with your doctor before taking any medicine or supplement. All rights reserved 2011.
Herbal / Dietary Supplements / Foods that may lower the risk of certain types of cancer: Avocados Banana, Bitter
Melon, Brown Seaweed, Capsicum, Cauliflower, Celery, Chlorophyll, Cordyceps, Curcumin, Dandelion, Ellagic acid,
Oldenlandia, Falcarinol, Fenugreek, Feverfew, Fish Oil, Forskolin, Galangal, Garlic, Gotu Kola, Green Tea, Grape Seed
Extract, Honokiol, Orange, Isothiocyanates, Linseed Oil, Limes, Lycopene, Maitake, Milk Thistle, Onion, Peony, Phellinus,
Quercetin, Pterostibene, Pycnogenol, Reishi, Rhubarb, Saffron, Stinging Nettle, Sweet Potatoes, and more. (Please read
the warning section)
Drugs listed in this website for chemotherapy:
Xeloda, Avastin, Herceptin, Tykerb,
Some studies do show the anti-cancer activities of certain herbs and supplements, but most of the studies were done in
test-tube or animals. It is unclear if they are effective in human body. Further, the composition of the products in market are
not necessary the same as those in the studies.
Cancer cells can spread very quickly, while most of the herbs/supplements take long time to see the effects (even though
they are active in our body). Some targeted drug products, including monoclonal antibodies, are cancer cell specific, they
are potent and have less side effects (compared to conventional anti-cancer drugs). Patients must discuss with their
doctors for the right treatment.