The central nervous system (CNS) comprises the brain and spinal cord. Tumors that start in the brain are called primary brain tumors. A tumor that starts in another part of the body and spreads to the brain is called a metastatic brain tumor.
Brain and spinal cord tumors may be either benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).
Both benign and malignant tumors cause signs and symptoms and most need to be treated. Benign brain and spinal cord tumors grow and press on nearby areas of the brain but almost never spread into other parts of the brain. Malignant brain and spinal cord tumors generally grow quickly and spread into other parts of the brain, and are life threatening if not treated.
There are many types of brain and spinal cord tumors. They form in different cell types and different areas of the brain and spinal cord. The signs and symptoms of brain and spinal cord tumors depend on where the tumor forms, its size, how fast it is growing, and the age of the patient. Brain and spinal cord tumors can occur in both adults and children. The types of tumors that form and the way they are treated are different in children and adults. The prognosis depends on many factors, including age, tumor size, tumor type, and where the tumor is located within the CNS.