Los Angeles Brain Cancer Types and Grades

No matter which of the many types of brain cancer you may have been diagnosed with, Pasadena CyberKnife Center provides residents of Los Angeles and the surrounding areas with effective radiation treatment using the latest, proven technology.

Brain Tumor Grades

The “grade” of a tumor corresponds to its aggressiveness. Because brain tumors rarely spread outside the brain (unlike other cancers which often metastasize into the brain), doctors use grades instead of stages for brain cancer evaluation. Higher grade tumors tend to grow faster, have an aggressive course, and are more likely to be malignant. Your team of doctors will use the grade to help develop the best treatment plan for you. They assign a grade to a tumor by the way the cells look under a microscope:

  • Grade I – The tumor is benign. The cells look nearly like normal brain cells. This grade is the least aggressive.
  • Grade II – The tumor is malignant. The cells look less normal but they, generally, are slow growing cells
  • Grade III – The malignant tissue has cells that look very different from normal cells. The abnormal cells are actively growing (anaplastic).
  • Grade IV – The malignant tissue has cells that look most abnormal and tend to grow quickly.

Brain Tumor Types

With hundreds of different types of brain tumors and different types of cancers metastasizing into the brain, doctors must evaluate each case individually to determine the best possible treatment. With both primary tumors (originating in the brain) and secondary tumors (metastasizing to the brain from another area of the body), each individual type can cause its unique symptoms and challenges.

Types of Primary Brain Tumors With Common Treatments

There are more than 120 different types of primary brain tumors, usually named after the location or type of cell within the brain the cancer originated from. Primary brain tumors can be benign or malignant. Benign tumors don’t contain cancer and usually grow slowly, but they can cause trouble for you by interfering with the brain’s normal functions and, therefore, be dangerous. These types of tumors can usually be removed with surgery and don’t grow back. Sometimes, benign tumors can become malignant over time. Malignant brain tumors are a serious threat to your life. They usually grow fast and overrun nearby brain tissue. The cancerous cells from these tumors usually don’t spread to other parts of the body. Here are the most common types of primary brain tumors:

  • Astrocytoma. This type of tumor emerges from star-shaped glial cells called astrocytes and most often occurs in the cerebrum. Astrocytoma tumors do not usually spread outside the brain or spinal cord and usually will not affect other organs. Astrocytomas are the most common glioma and often have clearly defined outlines on diagnostic images. They sometimes have diffuse zones of infiltration (e.g. low-grade astrocytoma, anaplastic astrocytoma, glioblastoma) that can arise in any location in the central nervous system (CNS), but they can have a tendency to progress to more advanced grades
  • GlioBlastoma Multiforme (GBM). The most common form of astrocytoma and it is most often malignant. Primary GBM grow, then spread to other parts of the brain very quickly. They can become very large before symptoms occur, which often begin abruptly with seizures. Surgical removal is the mainstay of treatment for this type of aggressive tumor if it can be done without unacceptable neurologic injury. Since GBM is extremely infiltrative, complete surgical removal is impossible. Radiation therapy and stereotactic radiosurgery are usually used in addition to surgery and can double the median survival of patients compared to supportive care alone.
  • Meningioma. A tumor arises in the meninges, which are three thin layers of tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord. This type of tumor is usually benign, but can be malignant, and generally is a slow growing tumor. Meningiomas can happen at any age, even to children, but most frequently arise in older women. Meningiomas may not require immediate treatment and can be observed with MRI scans. If the patient has symptoms or the tumor is in a critical area treatment is usually recommended. Patients are often treated with surgery, stereotactic radiosurgery, and radiation therapy.
  • Oligodendroglioma. This is a rare, slow-growing tumor that occurs in the cells that make up the fatty substance that covers and protects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. It is sometimes referred to as an oligodendroglial tumor. Oligodendroglioma can occur in adults and children, and the average age of diagnosis is 35. These tumors are often treated with surgery, radiation therapy, stereotactic radiosurgery and will often respond well to chemotherapy as well.
  • Acoustic Neuroma (Vestibular Schwannoma). A slow growing almost always benign tumor that arises from the cells that cover the vestibulocochlear nerve. This tumor has symptoms of hearing loss, balance problems, or ringing in the ears (tinnitus). The tumor is located on the nerve connected to the hearing. While removal by surgery has great tumor control rates, it can lead to hearing loss, facial numbness, or facial weakness. Multiple studies show outstanding tumor control rates with stereotactic radiosurgery with a far reduced risk of side effects.
  • Paraganglioma (Glomus Jugularis or chemodectomas). These tumors are rare, most often benign tumors most commonly affecting the base of skull and neck region. These tumors are often treated with surgical resection, radiation therapy, or stereotactic radiosurgery.
  • Medulloblastoma. While this tumor can be seen in adults it is often in diagnosed in children and teenagers and is the most common malignant brain tumor in childhood. Disease can often times involve the spinal cord, therefore treatment is often directed to the brain and spinal cord. Although less frequent, this tumor can spread throughout the body. This tumor is often treated with a combination of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy and less often stereotactic radiosurgery.
  • Ependymoma. This tumor forms from cells lining the ependymal lining of ventricular system of the brain and spinal cord. This tumor is also often seen in children. Surgery is often followed by radiation or stereotactic radiosurgery.
  • Pituitary Adenoma. These tumors are almost always benign. The pituitary is located in the sella turcica which is near the optic nerve and optic chiasm. Tumors that progress in this location can lead to loss of vision. These tumors can make hormones in excess that can lead to symptoms. In many instances these tumors may not require treatment and in some instances can be treated with medication. Often times patients will require surgery, radiation therapy, stereotactic radiosurgery or a combination of treatments.
  • Central Neurocytoma. These tumors are rare and most commonly behave as benign tumors. They are often found in young adults but can be seen in children and the elderly. They usually form in the brain cavities and often result in swelling of the brain. Most patients will be treated with surgery and radiation therapy or stereotactic radiosurgery.

Types of Secondary Brain Metastases

  • Lung Cancer Metastases. Cancer that metastasizes to the brain most often originates in the lungs for both men and women. You usually find multiple brain tumors within nine months of the time the lung tumor is diagnosed.
  • Breast Cancer Metastases. This is the second most common type of brain metastases in women. These brain tumors often don’t show for a few years after the breast cancer is found, but can appear even five or ten years following original breast cancer treatment. Two or more metastatic brain tumors are common.
  • Melanoma Metastases. For men, these are the second most common type of brain metastases and they can metastasize to the brain or the meninges (the covering of the brain and spinal cord). These tumors usually occur several years after the primary melanoma and in multiples. Because these tumors have many blood vessels, they are at risk of bleeding.
  • Colon/Colorectal Metastases. With colon or colorectal cancer, a single tumor tends to metastasize a few years after the first tumor is diagnosed.
  • Kidney/Renal Metastases. Like the colon cancer, this cancer usually moves to the brain as a single tumor within a few years of the primary tumor diagnosis. This type of tumor also has a high chance of bleeding.

Call Pasadena CyberKnife To Find Out More

These are only a few examples of the myriad of tumor types doctors have catalogued and the treatment for most of them includes radiation therapy or radiosurgery. The radiation oncology experts at Pasadena CyberKnife will work with your team of physicians to develop a brain cancer treatment plan specific to your type of cancer, as well as your age, health, and other considerations. Find out more about the treatments Pasadena CyberKnife has to offer. Make a consultation appointment today at (626) 325-0777 or reach out to us using our online message form. We’re here to answer all your questions and fully explain your treatment options. With the CyberKnife system, our cancer treatment center offers you results-proven treatment for your brain cancer, while minimizing harm to your nearby healthy tissue.