A medical professional holding an x-ray of a human skull

Brain Tumors

A brain tumor is a mass of abnormal cells that grow in the brain. Brain tumors can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). They can originate in the brain itself or be the result of cancer that has spread from another part of the body. Those that are cancerous frequently grow rapidly, while those that are not tend to grow more slowly.

While benign tumors are generally less worrisome when they occur in other parts of the body, in the brain they often grow large enough to disrupt normal functioning. If they do, surgery is required.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the symptoms of a brain tumor?

    Seizures and severe headaches are usually the first sign a brain tumor might be present. Other symptoms can include cognitive changes, loss of consciousness, and dizziness. Brain tumors can also present with weakness or numbness in just one part of the body. Headaches that are tumor-related are generally unusually severe or will be combined with other symptoms, such as vomiting or fever.

  • How do you know if you have a brain tumor?

    Symptoms of a brain tumor may be mild and subtle or severe and life-threatening, and are usually related to impairment in the area of the brain where the tumor is located. Only a full medical evaluation can determine whether a brain tumor is causing your neurological or other symptoms, which may also be caused by many other conditions.

  • How long does it take for brain tumor symptoms to appear?

    Tumors can grow rapidly or be slow-growing. Tumors are classified according to grades (numbered I to IV) that rank how quickly they grow and spread to other tissues. Tumors called gliomas, which start in glial brain cells, make up more than three-quarters of malignant, quickly growing brain tumors. However, only about a third of brain tumors are gliomas.

Key Terms

Scans of a person's spine
Oligodendroglioma: Signs, Symptoms, and Complications
MRI digital x-ray of brain with team radiologist doctor oncology working together in clinic hospital. Medical healthcare concept.
Oligodendroglioma: Causes and Risk Factors
Doctor looking at brain scan
How is Oligodendroglioma Diagnosed?
Doctor looking and CT scan of brain
How Ependymoma is Diagnosed
Doctor looking at brain CT scan
How Ependymoma Is Treated
Doctor looking at brain tumor
Ependymoma Causes and Risk Factors
Side view of experienced male and female doctors examining MRI brain scans of a patient. They are looking at thumbnails of a top view cranial cross section. Sunlight is flaring from the window in the background.
How a Meningioma Is Treated
Woman suffering from stress or a headache grimacing in pain
What Is Anaplastic Astrocytoma?
a woman with a headache
What Causes Anaplastic Astrocytoma?
Doctor and patient looking at MRI image
How Is Anaplastic Astrocytoma Treated?
doctor examining brain MRI
How Is Anaplastic Astrocytoma Diagnosed?
a young woman with a headache sitting on her bed
What Are the Symptoms of Anaplastic Astrocytoma?
A man places his hand over the left side of his face. He appears to be in pain.
Meningioma: Signs, Symptoms, and Complications
Oligodendroglioma: Overview and More
A doctor is explaining brain scan results to her patient.
Meningioma: Overview and More
MRI of the brain
Symptoms of Ependymoma
A series of MRI images of the brain
What Is an Ependymoma?
Doctor checking on post-op patient
How Is Hemangioblastoma Treated
Patient going in for a CT scan
How Is Hemangioblastoma Diagnosed
Mature woman holding her head
Hemangioblastoma: Signs, Symptoms, and Complications
Doctor looking at brain scans
Hemangioblastoma: Causes and Risk Factors
Human brain tumor X-ray scan , Medically accurate 3D illustration
What Is a Hemangioblastoma?
Brain tumor recovery can be aided with telehealth
How to Use Telehealth for Brain Tumor Care
Brain Cancer: Overview
What You Should Know About Brain Cancer
Brain cancer can cause severe head pain
Recognizing Brain Cancer Symptoms
Young girl with head scarf and stuffed animal looking out a window
How Long Can a Child Live With DIPG?
Doctor with cancer patient
What to Know About Optune
Brain Cancer Awareness
What Are the Options If Your Glioblastoma Recurs?
What to Expect From a Medulloblastoma
Female doctor explaining MR exposure to a male patient
Primary and Metastatic - Differences Between Brain Cancer vs. Tumors
MRI scanning procedure.
How Seizures Are Related to Brain Tumors
Magnetic Resonance Image of the Head
Glioma and Brain Cancer Treatments
Brain cancer
Meningioma Are a Serious Type of Primary Brain Tumor
Brain cancer, computer artwork.
How Is Meningioma of the Brain Treated?
Brain disease diagnosis with medical doctor diagnosing elderly ageing patient neurodegenerative illness problem seeing Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) film for neurological medical treatment
Glioblastoma Multiforme Is a Very Aggressive Type of Brain Tumor
Brain Tumor Support Groups
7 Brain Tumor Support Groups of 2021
Page Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Brain tumors.

  2. American Cancer Society. Types of brain and spinal cord tumors in adults.