Brain Tumors

There are many types of tumors of the brain or spinal cord and central nervous system. They may be either benign or malignant.

  • Benign tumors may grow and press on nearby areas of the brain. They rarely spread into other tissues and may come back.
  • Malignant or cancerous tumors are likely to grow quickly and spread into other tissues.

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 tumors cause signs and symptoms and need treatment.

Often, tumors in the brain actually started somewhere else in the body. These are called metastatic brain tumors, or metastases. About half of these metastases originate from cancer of the lungs.

Approximately 25,400 cases of brain and other nervous system cancers will be diagnosed in the United States in 2024 and cause about 18,760 deaths, according to the National Cancer Institute. The estimated five-year average survival rate is about 33 percent.


Doctors don’t know what causes most adult brain and spinal cord tumors. Furthermore, the signs and symptoms are not the same in every person.

Symptoms of brain tumors include:

  • Morning headache or headache that goes away after vomiting.
  • Seizures.
  • Vision, hearing, and speech problems.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Frequent nausea and vomiting.
  • Changes in personality, mood, ability to focus, or behavior.
  • Loss of balance and trouble walking.
  • Weakness.
  • Unusual sleepiness or change in activity level.

Among the symptoms of tumors of the spinal cord or central nervous system are:

  • Back pain or pain that spreads from the back towards the arms or legs.
  • A change in bowel habits or trouble urinating.
  • Weakness or numbness in the arms or legs.
  • Trouble walking.
Adult Central Nervous System Tumors Treatment (PDQ®)

Source: National Cancer Institute