There is no such thing as routine brain cancer. Every patient’s brain cancer is different, with different, individually unique genes and molecules driving each person’s specific disease.

At the OSUCCC – James, our brain cancer specialists are world-renowned cancer experts who focus solely on brain cancer and who reach across medical disciplines (oncologists, surgeons, radiologists, pharmacists, genomics experts and more) to design the very best treatment plan and therapies to target each patient’s specific cancer.

And by offering access to the country’s most advanced clinical trials right here at the OSUCCC – James, patients know that additional options, when needed, are often available for their treatment and care.

Facts About Brain Tumors

About 24,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with brain cancer every year.

Brain tumors begin as abnormal growths of cells and can be either benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Benign brain tumors can grow large enough to press on neighboring areas of the brain. These types of tumors are usually removed through surgery and rarely spread to other regions of the body.

Malignant brain tumors grow more quickly and are more likely to spread into other areas of the brain or body. This type of tumor is a more serious condition than benign tumors. Cancer cells can break away and invade other parts of the brain or spinal cord.

Both benign and malignant brain tumors cause symptoms and need treatment.

Metastatic Tumors

Often, tumors found in the brain originated elsewhere in the body. When a brain tumor begins in another part of the body and spreads to the brain, it is referred to as a metastatic tumor. In fact, metastatic tumors are diagnosed more frequently than tumors that originate in the brain.

About half of all metastatic brain tumors are from lung cancer. Other types of cancer that tend to spread to the brain are melanoma, breast, colon, kidney and nasopharynx cancers.

Other Types of Brain Tumors

Primary Nervous System Lymphoma

Lymphoma is a disease in which malignant (cancerous) cells form in the lymph system. The lymph system is part of the immune system and is made up of the lymph, lymph vessels, lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, tonsils, and bone marrow. Lymphocytes (white blood cells that are carried in the lymph) travel in and out of the central nervous system (CNS).

Research indicates that some of these lymphocytes become malignant and cause lymphoma to form in the CNS. Primary CNS lymphoma can start in the brain, spinal cord or meninges (the layers that form the outer covering of the brain). Because the eye is so close to the brain, primary CNS lymphoma can also start in the eye (called ocular lymphoma).


Medulloblastomas are most often seen in children or young adults. These tumors arise from embryonic tissue, and their cause of is still being studied.

Pituitary Tumors

  • Benign Pituitary Adenomas: Tumors that are not cancer. These tumors grow very slowly and do not spread from the pituitary gland to other parts of the body
  • Invasive Pituitary Adenomas: Benign (non-cancerous) tumors that may spread to bones of the skull or the sinus cavity below the pituitary gland
  • Pituitary Carcinomas: Tumors that are cancerous. These pituitary tumors spread into other areas of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) or outside of the central nervous system. Very few pituitary tumors are cancerous

Pineal Parenchymal Tumors

Pineal parenchymal tumors begin in specialized cells called parenchymal cells, or pineocytes. These cells make up the pineal gland — a small organ that secretes melatonin, which regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Grades of pineal parenchymal tumors include the following:

  • Pineocytoma (Grade II): A slow-growing pineal tumor
  • Pineoblastoma (Grade IV): A rare tumor that is very likely to spread

Meningeal Tumors

Meningiomas are most often seen in adults. This type of tumor forms in the meninges — the thin layer of tissue that covers the brain and spinal cord. These tumors are also called meningiomas.

Types of meningeal tumors include the following:

  • Meningioma (Grade I): A slow-growing tumor most often formed in the dura mater. This type of cancer has a high cure rate if caught early enough.
  • Meningioma (Grade II and III): A rare tumor that grows more quickly and is more likely to spread from its original site.

A hemangiopericytoma, although not a meningeal tumor, is treated like a Grade II or III meningioma. It most often forms in cells of the dura mater and can be difficult to treat with surgery.

Germ Cell Tumors

This type of tumor begins in the sex cells, or germ cells. Germ cells eventually develop into sperm in men or eggs in women.

There are multiple types of germ cell tumors including germinomas, teratomas, embryonal yolk sac carcinomas and choriocarcinomas. Germ cell tumors can be either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Craniopharyngioma (Grade I)

This rare tumor type usually begins just above the pituitary gland, located in the center and just above the back of the brain. These tumors can form from different types of brain or spinal cord cells.


Schwannomas are rare, benign (non-cancerous) tumors that begin in specialized nerve cells, called Schwann cells. These cells are found in the nerve sheath — a tissue that covers the nerves.

Brain Metastasis

Tumors found in the brain have often started somewhere else in the body and spread to one or more parts of the brain. These are called metastatic brain tumors (or brain metastases). Metastatic brain tumors are more frequently diagnosed than primary brain tumors.

About half of metastatic brain tumors are from lung cancer. Other types of cancer that can spread to the brain include melanoma and cancer of the breast, colon, kidney, nasopharynx, or an unknown primary site. Leukemia, lymphoma, breast cancer and gastrointestinal cancer may spread to the leptomeninges (the two innermost membranes covering the brain and spinal cord). This is called leptomeningeal carcinomatosis.

(Source: National Cancer Institute)

Brain Anatomy


The brain has four major parts:


This is the largest part of the brain and is located at the top of the head. The cerebrum controls the executive functions of the brain including thinking, learning, problem solving, speech, sensations, vision and hearing.


The cerebellum, located at the lower part of the back of the head, controls motor functions including all movement, balance and posture.

Brain Stem

This part of the brain is what connects the brain to the spinal cord. It controls involuntary actions such as breathing and heart rate. It also controls the nerves and muscles needed to carry out daily functions such as eating, talking and seeing.


There are four ventricles in the human brain: two lateral, one near the center and one near the hindbrain that connects the spinal cord. They are filled with cerebrospinal fluid and deliver nutrients to the brain and protect and cushion brain tissue.

Other Brain Cancer Symptoms

Symptoms caused by a brain tumor depend on where the tumor begins in the brain, what that part of the brain controls and the size of the tumor.

Check with your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • 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
  • Weakness
  • Unusual sleepiness or change in activity level
  • Changes in personality, mood, ability to focus or behavior
  • Seizures

Having these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have brain cancer. Other conditions may cause the same symptoms. But if you have symptoms, you should tell your doctor, especially if they have continued for longer than a few weeks.

(Source: National Cancer Institute)

If you’ve been diagnosed with brain cancer, would like a second opinion or would like to speak with a brain cancer specialist, please call The James Line at 800-293-5066 or 614-293-5066 to make an appointment.

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The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute

460 West 10th Avenue

Columbus, Ohio 43210

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