Brain cancer is a disease characterized by the presence of malignant (cancerous) cells in the brain tissue. Cancer cells usually impact bodily and cognitive functions, including muscle control, memory, respiration, and others.
Tumors made up of cancerous cells are called malignant tumors. Non-cancerous tumors are called benign tumors. Malignant tumors effectively subdue healthy cells, taking their blood, nutrients, and space in the body.
Brain cancer, while serious, is quite rare. Studies estimate that the illness accounts for less than 1.5 percent of all new cancer cases. Per the National Cancer Institute, there are approximately 23,770 new cases and 16,050 deaths from brain cancer each year.
BRAIN CANCER “GRADES”
Brain tumors are assigned a ‘grade’ (I through IV, or 1-4) denoting their microscopic appearance and level of severity. Grades are as follows:
I: Benign cell tissue; cells grow slowly and look nearly identical to normal brain cells.
II: Malignant cells; cells appear more different than usual in comparison to grade I cells.
III: Malignant cells look quite different compared to normal brain cells (‘anaplastic’). They spread to malignant cells faster than grade I and II.
IV: Malignant cells appear highly anaplastic. Cells grow quickly.
Benign cells grow at a slower rate than malignant cells; however, benign cells located in vulnerable areas may be life-threatening and still require treatment. Some malignant tumors – though not all – respond promisingly to treatment (more on this later).
BRAIN CANCER TYPES AND STAGES
Brain cancer types receive classification according to the originating area. For example, “brain stem cancer” tends to develop around the medulla oblongata, pons, and midbrain near the spinal cord. Primary types of brain cancer include glioblastoma, glioma, meningioma, medulloblastoma, pituitary adenoma, and vestibular schwannoma.
Metastatic brain tumors originate in other areas of the body, such as the lung or lymphatic system. They are formed by cells that spread (metastasize) from other organs or areas of the body. Metastatic brain cancers are more common than the primary types listed above…