Brain Tumors

Each year, about 17,000 new cases of primary malignant brain tumors are diagnosed (Cancer Facts and Figures 2002). In addition, it is estimated that between 100,000 and 150,000 metastatic brain tumors are diagnosed in the United States each year (Newton 2002). In children, approximately 3,100 benign and malignant brain tumors were diagnosed in 2002 making brain tumors the second most common cancer of childhood (CBTRUS 2002). Primary malignant brain tumors claimed about 13,100 lives in 2002 (Cancer Facts and Figures 2002).

Sources of brain tumors

Although medical science has not identified the cause of brain tumors, studies are underway to identify possible sources. These sources include:

  • Exposure to certain viruses
  • Exposure to chemicals
  • Factors related to heredity

Primary and metastatic tumors

Brain tumors are considered either primary or metastatic. Primary brain tumors originate in the brain, while metastatic brain tumors start in another part of the body and spread to the brain.

Central nervous system tumors

Tumors of the central nervous system (CNS) may involve the brain, cerebrospinal fluid (fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord), and/or the spinal cord.

Symptom factors

People with brain tumors may experience a wide range of symptoms depending on factors such as:

  • The tumor type 
  • Tumor size
  • Location of the tumor


At OHSU many different kinds of brain tumors are treated. These include:

  • CNS lymphomas
  • Primitive neuro-ectodermal tumors (PNETs)
  • Germ cell tumors
  • Gliomas, which include astrocytoma, anaplastic astrocytoma, oligodendroglioma, anaplastic oligodendroglioma, glioblastoma multiforme and brain stem glioma
  • Metastatic tumors, which include breast, ovarian, small cell lung, and adenocarcinoma that have metastasized from an unknown primary site