Brain and Spinal Tumors: About Brain and Spinal Tumors

A tumor is an abnormal growth of tissue. Tumors affecting the brain and spine can either originate in the brain or spine itself, or come from another part of the body and travel to the brain or spine (metastasize). Brain and spinal tumors may be classified as either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous), depending on their behavior.

A benign tumor does not contain cancer cells and usually, once removed, does not recur. Most benign tumors have clear borders, meaning they do not invade surrounding tissue. However, these tumors may need to be removed because they are creating pressure on nearby tissues or causing symptoms similar to cancerous tumors due to their size and location.

Malignant tumors contain cancer cells. Malignant brain tumors are usually fast growing and invade surrounding tissue. Malignant brain tumors very rarely spread to other areas of the body, but may recur after treatment. Sometimes, brain tumors that are not cancer are called malignant because of their size and location, and the damage they can do to vital functions of the brain.

Metastatic brain tumors are tumors that begin to grow in another part of the body, then spread to the brain through the bloodstream. Common types of cancer that can travel to the brain include lung cancer, breast cancer, melanoma (a type of skin cancer), and colon cancer. All of these cancers are considered malignant once they have spread to the brain.

Spinal Schwannomas, or neuromas, are tumors that develop in the protective sheathing around the nerves in the spine. Almost all Schwannomas are benign, although they may require removal in order to relieve pressure on the nerves or spine. Metastatic spinal tumors may originate in the bones of the spine (vertebrae). Malignant spine tumors include chondrosarcomas, Ewing sarcomas, and osteosarcomas.

Learn more about the classification, diagnosis, and treatment of brain and spinal tumors at: