A malignant brain tumor is a growth of cancerous cells in the brain. It can be classified as a primary tumor, which means the cancer started in the brain, or as a secondary tumor, which means the cancer started somewhere else in the body and then spread (or metastasized) to the brain. Brain tumors are graded on a scale of 1-4 with malignant tumors having a grade of 3 or 4, which signifies that they grow more aggressively and can be more difficult to treat.
Symptoms of malignant brain tumors
The symptoms of a brain tumor depend on where in the brain the tumor is located. For example, a tumor growing in the frontal lobe of the brain may affect movement and memory while a tumor growing in the occipital lobe affects vision. Some of the more common symptoms of malignant brain tumors include:
- Memory problems
- Personality changes
- Speech issues
- Weakness on one side of the body
- Persistent nausea or vomiting
- Problems with balance and/or walking
Types of malignant brain tumors
The majority of malignant brain tumors develop from the glial tissue, which are the supporting cells of the brain. These tumors are called gliomas and can include:
- Astrocytomas, the most common type glioma that is most prevalent among young adults as well as older individuals and develops among the supportive tissues of the brain. Glioblastoma represents the most common astrocytoma
- Oligodendrogliomas, which develop from cells that produce myelin, an insulating layer around the nerves
- Ependymomas, which grow from cells that line the passageways where cerebrospinal fluid flows
Treating malignant brain tumors
The primary goal for treatment is to remove as much of the tumor as possible, which is why surgery is often the first option for patients. After that, patients will undergo radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy to remove any remaining cancer cells and treat symptoms.
Moffitt’s approach to malignant brain tumor treatment
Moffitt Cancer Center offers individualized, comprehensive care for patients with malignant brain tumors. Our Neuro-Oncology Program features a multispecialty team of neurosurgeons, medical oncologists, neurologists, neuropathologists, radiation oncologists and other experts who focus exclusively on the evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of brain tumors. Each patient’s treatment is overseen by multiple specialists who have extensive experience addressing even the most complex cases. They collaborate to closely monitor a patient’s progress and refine the treatment plan as necessary.
Moffitt also spearheads ambitious cancer research, and that’s why we have been recognized as a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center - the only one based in Florida. Along with the typical brain tumor treatment options, our patients have access to immunotherapy and clinical trials.
Medically reviewed by Arnold Etame MD, PHD, neurological surgeon