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Brain and spinal tumours

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Other brain and spinal cord tumours

Many less common types of benign (low-grade) and malignant (high-grade)brain and spinal cord tumours occur in adults.

Craniopharyngioma

A craniopharyngioma is a benign (low-grade) tumour that grows near the pituitary glandpituitary glandThe main endocrine system gland at the base of the brain that produces hormones to control other glands and many body functions, including growth. at the base of the brain. Most are made up of cysts. Only about 10% of craniopharyngiomas are solid tumours.

  • Craniopharyngiomas are more common in children, but can be found in adults of any age.
  • These tumours can affect the normal functions of the pituitary gland. They can also damage nerves in the area, particularly the nerve responsible for sight (optic nerve).

Treatment options for craniopharyngiomas may include:

  • surgery
    • Surgery is used to remove all of the tumour or as much as possible.
  • radiation therapy
    • Radiation therapy may be given after surgery if the tumour was not completely removed (adjuvant radiation therapy).

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Hemangioblastoma

Hemangioblastomas are benign (low-grade) tumours that have a large number of blood vessels and may contain cystscystsA sac in the body that is usually filled with fluid or semi-solid material..

  • They are most commonly found in the cerebellum or brain stem.
  • Hemangioblastomas are found in middle-aged adults between the ages of 30 and 50 years.
  • People with von Hippel-Lindau syndrome (VHL) have an increased risk of developing hemangioblastomas.

Treatment options for hemangioblastomas may include:

  • surgery
    • Surgery is used to remove all of the tumour or as much as possible.
  • radiation therapy
    • Radiation therapy may be used:
      • to treat tumours that are in an area where surgery cannot be done
      • if the tumour was not completely removed during surgery
      • if there are multiple tumours

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Glomus jugulare tumour

A glomus jugulare tumour (also called paraganglioma) is a benign (low-grade) tumour.

  • These tumours develop in the nerve that runs through the temporal bone of the skull, near the middle ear.
  • They are most often found in people around the age of 50 years.

Treatment options for glomus jugulare tumour may include:

  • surgery
    • Surgery is used to remove as much of the tumour as possible.
  • radiation therapy
    • Radiation therapy may be given as the primary treatment.
    • It may also be used if the tumour cannot be completely removed by surgery (adjuvant radiation therapy).

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Schwannoma

Schwannomas (also called neurilemomas) are usually low-grade tumours. They usually start in the membrane covering the nerves in the spinal cord. They usually develop in the lower spine (lumbar spine) on one of the nerve roots. When they start in the cranial nerve responsible for balance near the cerebellum, they are called acoustic neuromas or vestibular schwannomas.

Treatment options for schwannomas may include:

  • surgery
    • A laminectomy (surgery to open a vertebra) is used to remove as much of the tumour as possible, while maintaining normal spinal function.
  • radiation therapy
    • Radiation therapy may be given after surgery if the tumour cannot be completely removed (adjuvant radiation therapy).
    • It may also be used to treat tumours that are in an area where surgery cannot be done.

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Neurofibroma

Neurofibromas are low-grade tumours that start in the cells that support the nerves of the spinal cord. They are the most common benign spinal tumour in people who have an inherited (genetic) disease called neurofibromatosisneurofibromatosisA genetic condition that affects the nervous system. It affects the development and growth of neurons (nerve cells), causes tumours (neurofibromas) to grow on nerves and may produce other abnormalities in muscles, bones and skin..

Treatment options for neurofibromas may include:

  • surgery
    • A laminectomy (surgery to open a vertebra) is used to remove as much of the tumour as possible, while maintaining normal spinal function.
  • radiation therapy
    • Radiation therapy may be given after surgery if the tumour cannot be completely removed (adjuvant radiation therapy).
    • It may also be used to treat tumours that are in an area where surgery cannot be done.

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Chordoma

Chordomas are low-grade tumours. They are most frequently found at the base of the spine (sacrum) or the area of the upper back or neck (the cervical spine).

  • Chordomas can grow to a large size and may occur as a single or as multiple tumours.
  • They can spread throughout surrounding tissues and have a tendency to recur.

Treatment options for chordomas may include:

  • surgery
    • A laminectomy (surgery to open a vertebra) is used to remove as much of the tumour as possible, while maintaining normal spinal function.
  • radiation therapy
    • Radiation therapy may be given after surgery if the tumour cannot be completely removed by surgery (adjuvant radiation therapy).
    • It may also be used to treat tumours that are in an area where surgery cannot be done.

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Choroid plexus carcinoma

Choroid plexus carcinomas are malignant (high-grade) tumours. They start in the tissue of the choroid plexus, which is located in each of the ventricles.

  • They are most common in children, but may occur in adults.
  • The tumour often grows into nearby tissue and is spread widely by the cerebral spinal fluid.

Treatment for choroid plexus carcinoma often includes:

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Gliomatosis cerebri

Gliomatosis cerebri is considered a widespread, low-grade glioma. It is characterized by scattered or broad spread of glial tumour cells, typically involving 2 or more lobes of the brain. Because of the diffuse nature of the tumour, surgery usually cannot be done.

Treatment options for gliomatosis cerebri may include:

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Hemangiopericytoma

Hemangiopericytoma is a grade II or grade III tumour that develops in the meninges (the membranes that cover and protect the brain and spinal cord). Although these tumours do not invade the brain, they tend to recur locally or even spread to other parts of the body (such as to the bone, lung or liver).

Treatment options for hemangiopericytoma may include:

  • surgery
    • Surgery is used to remove as much of the tumour as possible.
  • radiation therapy
    • Radiation therapy is usually given following surgery.
  • chemotherapy
    • Chemotherapy is given if surgery and radiation therapy are not effective or if the tumour has spread to other parts of the body.

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Medulloblastoma

Medulloblastomas are high-grade tumours that develop from neuroectodermal cells (primitive nerve cells) in the cerebellum. They are part of a class of tumours called primitive neuroectodermal tumours (PNETs).

  • Medulloblastomas occur much more often in children than in adults. About 20% of all medulloblastomas occur in adults.
  • They frequently spread through the cerebral spinal fluid (CFS) to other parts of the central nervous system.

Treatment options for medulloblastomas may include:

  • surgery
    • Surgery is done to remove as much of the tumour as possible.
  • radiation therapy
    • Radiation therapy is given to the area around the primary tumour.
    • A lower dose of radiation may be given to the entire brain and spinal cord following surgery if there is no evidence of tumour spread.
  • chemotherapy
    • Chemotherapy may be given if there is tumour remaining after surgery or there is evidence of spread to the cerebrospinal fluid or brainstem.

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Germ cell tumours

Germ cells normally develop into eggs in women and sperm in men. During normal development, germ cells travel to either the ovaries, where they mature into eggs, or to the testicles, where they mature into sperm. Sometimes a few germ cells do not move to the ovaries or testicles as they should and end up in abnormal places, such as the brain. In some cases, these cells develop into a tumour, usually near the pineal gland in the centre of the brain.

  • Germ cell tumours most often occur in children, but may be found in adults under the age of 30 years.
  • The tumours can be low-grade or high-grade with the potential to spread to other parts of the brain and spinal cord.
  • Types of germ cell tumours include:
    • germinoma
    • non-germinoma
      • choriocarcinoma
      • embryonal cell carcinoma
      • mixed tumour
    • teratoma

Treatment options for germ cell tumours may include chemotherapy, with or without radiation therapy.

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Chondrosarcoma

Chondrosarcomas develop in the bones. These tumours are made up mostly of cartilage.

  • Chondrosarcoma is most often found in the bony ridge running along the back of the eyes or the bony area at the base of the skull.
  • These tumours tend to be slow growing and spread locally, staying within the same general area of the brain.

Treatment for chondrosarcoma is:

  • surgery
    • Surgery is done to remove as much of the tumour as possible.
  • radiation therapy
    • Radiation therapy may be given after surgery.

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Pituitary gland tumours

Pituitary tumours develop in the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland produces hormones that control growth and physical and sexual development. These hormones also affect other glands in the body, such as the thyroid and adrenal glands.

For more information about pituitary tumours, go to pituitary gland tumours.

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Rare benign brain tumours

The following are rare benign (low-grade) brain tumours. They do not occur very often or are not often found in adults.

  • central neurocytomas
    • grade II tumours
    • usually found in people between the ages of 20 and 40 years
  • cerebellar liponeurocytomas
    • grade I tumours
    • usually found in people between the ages of 40 and 50 years
  • choroid plexus papillomas
    • grade I tumours of the choroid plexus (the organ that makes the cerebrospinal fluid)
    • more commonly found in children than adults
  • gangliocytomas
    • grade I tumours that develop in ganglions (bundles of neurons)
    • may contain cysts
    • most often found in children or adults under the age of 30 years
  • gangliogliomas
    • grade I or II tumours made up ganglions and glial cells
    • may contain cysts
    • most often found in children or adults under the age of 30 years
  • melanocytomas
    • low-grade tumours that start in melanocytes (cells that produce pigment) in the 2 inner membranes of the brain and spinal cord (leptomeninges)
    • occur more frequently in women in their 40s
  • pineocytomas
    • grade II tumour of the pineal gland
    • usually found in adults between 25 and 35 years of age
  • subependymal giant cell astrocytomas
    • grade I tumours
    • found almost exclusively in people with tuberous sclerosis (a genetic disorder that causes multiple growths on the skin and organs)
  • pleomorphic xanthoastrocytoma
    • grade II tumours
    • usually develop in children and young adults

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