Adult brain tumour types
There are over 130 brain tumour types, as classified by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Here you can learn more about some of the most common types of brain tumours in adults.
Brain tumours can differ in terms of the cells they originate from, how quickly they are likely to grow and spread, and the part of the brain they affect. So, knowing your brain tumour type can help you understand your condition.
As a general rule, brain tumours are named according to the type of cell they start from and/or where in the brain they are located. Below, you can find information about the most common types of brain tumours in adults, including their causes and treatments.
Information about glioblastoma (GBM), the most common primary brain tumour in adults.
Learn about astrocytomas, the most common brain tumour in the group of tumours called gliomas.
Pituitary adenonas tumours develop from the tissue of the pituitary gland.
Get facts about acoustic neuroma (vestibular schwannoma), a low grade brain tumour.
Meningioma begin in the membranes that cover and protect the brain and spinal cord.
Oligodendrogliomas are the 3rd most common glioma, and are more common in adults.
Discover more about this tumour type, which grows from blood vessel cells.
Find out about CNS lymphoma, caused by the uncontrolled growth of the lymph cells.
Tumours with unknown cells, or they contain more than one type of cell.
Types of brain tumours in adults
As mentioned, there are over 130 brain tumour types, which is too many to list in detail here. But, in the list below we have a brief overview of some of the main types of brain tumours in adults.
Glioblastomas are a particularly aggressive type of brain tumour, falling under the glioma family of tumours. They are grade 4 brain tumours, which are sometimes called malignant or cancerous. And, they are usually treated through surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy.
Astrocytomas also fall within the glioma family and can occur in a lot of different parts of the brain. They are the most common primary brain tumour in the UK, affecting about a third of people who are diagnosed with a brain tumour. Treatment depends on the tumour’s grade, size, and location in the brain, though is generally surgery followed by radiotherapy and, in some cases, chemotherapy.
A pituitary adenoma is a tumour that starts in the pituitary gland tissue, which is found in the base of the brain. These are also quite common tumours, affecting about a fifth of people who are diagnosed with tumours. They are slow growing and often harmless. If treatment is needed, pituitary adenoma can sometimes be treated by medication or non-invasive surgery. They can also sometimes be treated by a less damaging radiation therapy known as stereotactic radiosurgery.
Acoustic neuromas are also called vestibular schwannomas and are low grade brain tumours, which are sometimes known as benign tumours. They’re slow growing and rarely fatal. Some acoustic neuromas might not need to be treated right away, but if they are larger they might need neurosurgery and stereotactic radiosurgery.
Meningiomas are brain tumours that grow in the meninges, which are membranes inside the skull. Meningiomas make up almost a quarter of all adult brain tumour types, and very rarely affect children. They are often low grade tumours and aren’t very likely to spread. Treatment usually depends on the grade, but can be anything from active monitoring to surgery and radiotherapy.
Oligodendrogliomas are another type of glioma – the third most common type. They’re more common in people aged between 40 and 60 and are usually grade 2 or grade 3 tumours. Grade 2 oligodendrogliomas grow slowly, so they often don’t need treatment right away. Grade 3 oligodendrogliomas, on the other hand, are usually treated with surgery and often followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Haemangioblastomas usually appear in people between the ages of 20 and 40. They are slow growing but can affect any part of the brain. These tumours can create problems with balance and walking and can lead to intense headaches. Haemangioblastomas are often treated through surgery and sometimes stereotactic radiosurgery.
A CNS lymphoma is actually caused by the lymph cells, which are a type of white blood cell. These can affect the brain or spinal cord and are usually high grade. CNS lymphomas are different from Hodgkin lymphoma and are usually treated through chemotherapy, sometimes followed by radiotherapy.
Gliomas develop from glial cells and cover various other types of tumours, being astrocytomas (which include glioblastomas), oligodendrogliomas, and ependymomas. But, sometimes, it’s hard to define exactly what type of glioma a tumour is.