A doctor and her patient are looking at MRI brain scans
There are over 120 types of brain tumors. The most common forms of brain cancer include acoustic neuroma, chordoma, brain stem glioma, glioblastoma multiforme, and juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma.

The Different Types of Brain Cancer

Brain cancer is a severe and potentially life-threatening condition that is expected to impact 80,000 people this year. However, brain cancer does not describe only one type of diagnosis.In fact, it’s an incredibly broad term for multiple conditions that differ person to person.

It’s important that people try to understand the complexity of brain cancer so that they may better understand their options moving forward.

Brain cancer appears in the body as a mass or tumor that forms from a collection of cells. There are two groups of brain cancer: primary and secondary.

Primary indicates that the tumor formed in the brain and remained there and the secondary is when cancer forms elsewhere in the body and then move to the brain. The prognosis and treatment for brain cancer depend primarily on the type of tumor, the number of abnormal cells, and where it is located in the brain.

While there are 120 types of brain tumors, we will focus on some of the most common forms that impact people to showcase just how different each diagnosis may be.

Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM)

This type of brain tumor is said to be the most common and deadliest. It is defined as a tumor that develops in the cerebral hemispheres of the brain but has also been known to develop near the spinal cord or brain stem.

This type of cancer has four distinct subtypes that respond differently to treatment; it makes it much more difficult to establish a treatment plan that is effective. Individuals must undergo surgery and then complete radiation and chemotherapy.

In some instances, the tumor is inoperable, and radiation and chemotherapy are the only viable options for treatment. There are several clinical trials available for treatment as well.

Juvenile Pilocytic Astrocytoma (JPA)

This particular tumor is relatively slow growing and has defined borders. It usually impacts young children and teens, but adults can also be diagnosed. Typically, the tumors develop in the cerebrum, optic nerve pathways, brain stem and cerebellum.

Usually, surgery is the best treatment. However, in the event that the entire tumor cannot be removed, radiation and chemotherapy may be used. In especially young children, doctors usually opt for chemotherapy only as radiation can have lasting impacts on a developing brain.

This particular cancer makes up two percent of all diagnosed cases.

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Acoustic Neuroma

An acoustic neuroma is a form of cancer that usually forms around the protective sheath of nerve fibers. There are a variety of symptoms that typically manifest with this type of tumor.

The most obvious signs include hearing loss, lack of coordination, and dizziness. Generally, doctors first like to observe the growth of this tumor. Surgery may be a treatment, but there is special care not to impact the cranial nerve which controls facial movement.

Radiosurgery can make the tumor much smaller and easier to operate. However, this process may take several months, and sometimes shrinkage never occurs.


This is an especially rare and slow-growing tumor. It usually occurs at the base of the skull or near the tip of the spine. Typically, this condition develops due to cells left during fetal development. It can spread and cause water on the brain.

Surgery can be a solution, however; removal is incredibly difficult if the tumor is located on the base of the skull. An operation is usually found and more successful if the tumor is located on the spine.

Brain Stem Glioma

This particular tumor is most common in children ages three to ten years. However, it is possible to impact adults.

Severity can range considerably so it is difficult to offer a blanketing prognosis as it will likely vary person to person. Symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and difficulty swallowing may come on quickly or gradually. In some instances, symptoms are so light that they go unnoticed for a conservable amount of time.

Typically, if symptoms are aggressive, then it is likely that the tumor has grown quickly. Surgery is difficult because the brain stem controls various major functions of the body. Radiation can help shrink the tumor.

It is reported that this particular tumor can go into remission for a long period of time.


Often, people say “brain cancer” as a blanketing term for a very diverse condition. Many types of brain tumors vary based on location, size, and speed of development.

Depending on the type of brain cancer, the treatment and prognosis will also differ significantly. It’s essential for individuals to discuss their options thoroughly with their doctor to better understand their condition and make healthy decisions accordingly.