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.
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