With more than 100 different types of primary brain tumors and other primary central nervous system (CNS) tumors, making an accurate diagnosis is crucial for your care. The CNS tumor specialists at Miami Cancer Institute at Baptist Health South Florida use special diagnostic techniques to reveal the exact type of tumor as well as molecular information that helps your doctors refine your personalized treatment plan.

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Our specialists collaborate to provide innovative, comprehensive primary CNS tumor care that includes new therapies through clinical trials when appropriate. They can see you in one visit through our unique, multidisciplinary brain and spine tumor clinic. This benefits your care directly by giving you access to the combined knowledge of many specialists in one convenient appointment.

What are primary brain tumors?

Unlike metastatic brain and spine tumors,  primary brain tumors originate in the brain. They can be either malignant (cancerous) or benign (noncancerous) and high-grade (fast-growing) or low-grade (slow-growing). There are more than 125 types of primary brain tumors and other primary CNS tumors. Doctors do not know what causes most types.

What are the types of primary brain tumors?

Primary brain tumors and other primary CNS tumors are grouped by how quickly they develop and named after the type of cell and location where they formed.

Medical illustration of anatomy of the brain.

Of all the types of primary brain tumors, the most common are:

  • Gliomas. These are the most common type of primary brain tumor. They develop in glial cells – a group of cells that covers neurons and supports their activity. There are several types of gliomas. They can be benign or malignant, low-grade or high-grade.
  • Medulloblastomas – or cerebellar primitive neuroectodermal tumors (PNETs). This is a cancerous, embryonal brain tumor that affects the cerebellum (the part of the brain that is in control of voluntary muscle movements). Embryonal tumors begin in the embryonic cells in the brain before birth. Though medulloblastomas (PNETs) are the most common type of malignant brain tumor in children, they can be diagnosed in adulthood.
  • Meningiomas. These slow-growing tumors develop in the meninges (the tissue that protects the brain and spinal cord). A meningioma can be malignant or benign.
  • Primary central nervous system (CNS) lymphoma. This cancer occurs in lymphocytes – white blood cells that form lymphatic tissue and make up your immune system. It can affect the lymph system of the brain or spinal cord.
  • Vestibular schwannoma. This is a condition in which a benign tumor grows on the vestibulocochlear nerve – the nerve that begins in the inner ear as the vestibular and cochlear nerves and ends in the brainstem.
  • Pituitary tumors. These begin in the epithelial cells that line the pituitary gland, which controls growth and metabolism and stimulates hormone production by other glands. Most pituitary tumors are benign.
  • Pineal region tumors. These tumors start in cells around the pineal gland – a small endocrine gland in the brain that secretes melatonin and other hormones. Pineal region tumors can be benign or malignant and low-grade or high-grade. There are two main types: germ cell tumors, which begin in the cells that become sperm or eggs and surround the pineal gland, and pineal cell tumors, which begin in the pineal gland.

What are the risk factors for primary brain tumors?

Risk factors for some – but not all – primary brain tumors include:

  • Having an immune system disorder like the Epstein-Barr virus or AIDS.
  • Using immunosuppressants after an organ transplant.
  • Genetic syndromes such as neurofibromatosis type 1 and type 2, von Hippel-Lindau disease, tuberous sclerosis, and Li-Fraumeni syndrome.
  • Exposure to vinyl chloride.

Even so, most people with a primary brain tumor have no known risk factors.

Miami Brain Symposium

Miami Brain Symposium

The Miami Brain Symposium focuses on state-of-the-art approaches in the management of primary and metastatic brain tumors, along with an understanding of current standards of care as well as a look at future directions. This symposium engages participants, as the expert faculty navigate through complex cases and novel treatment strategies and lively panel discussions.

"Proton therapy is a precise way of treating brain tumors with radiation, primarily because we eliminate the exit dose of radiation into normal brain tissue."

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