Living with Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors in Adults

Brain and spinal cord tumors are cancers of the brain and central nervous system. Of the many different types of brain and spinal cord tumors, the most common are gliomas and meningiomas. Gliomas form in glial cells located throughout the brain; meningiomas form in the meninges, the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. Other types include medulloblastomas, gangliogliomas, schwannomas, and craniopharyngiomas. Nearly 23,000 new cases of malignant brain and spinal cord tumors are diagnosed in the United States each year; survival rates vary widely depending on the tumor type, location, and how widely it may have spread.

Most types of brain and spinal cord tumors do not have a direct cause. However, risk factors include radiation exposure and certain genetic and immune system disorders. Symptoms of brain tumors may include headaches, seizures, and changes in mood, behavior, or mental function. Symptoms of spinal cord tumors include weakness in the legs, loss of balance or coordination, and reduced control of the bladder or bowels. There is no formal staging system for brain and spinal cord tumors; factors that doctors take into consideration when prescribing treatment include a patient's age and level of function; the type, size and location of the tumor; and the extent to which is has spread. Brain and spinal cord tumor treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, targeted therapy, drug therapy, or a combination of these.

For more information on Brain and spinal cord tumors, read the American Cancer Society's detailed guide.

If you have been affected by Brain and spinal cord tumors, please be sure to take some time to read others' experiences, share your own experiences, and ask or answer questions. Don't forget to view our Beginner's Guide to Cancer.

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