Brain Cancer Care

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  • About 23,000 new cases of malignant tumors of the brain or spinal cord will be diagnosed in the United States (about 13,000 in males and 10,000 in females) in 2015.
  • Approximately 15,000 deaths from tumors of the brain or spinal cord (9,000 males and 6,000 females) are expected in 2015.
  • Overall, the chance that a person will develop a malignant tumor of the brain or spinal cord in his or her lifetime is less than 1%.
  • Depending on the type of tumor, survival rates for brain and spinal cord cancers vary.
  • Malignant tumors of the brain or spinal cord account for about 1 out of 5 childhood cancers.
  • More than 4,000 central nervous system tumors are diagnosed each year in children and teens.

Source: Accessed on 24 Nov 2015. Last Medical Review: 8/12/14 Last Revised: 8/24/14

Risk Factors

  • Most brain tumors are not associated with any known risk factors and have no obvious cause, but there are a few factors that may raise the risk of brain tumors.
  • The best-established environmental risk factor for brain tumors is radiation exposure, most commonly from some type of radiation therapy. For example, before the risks of radiation were recognized, children with ringworm of the scalp (a fungal infection) were sometimes treated with low-dose radiation therapy, which was later found to increase their risk of brain tumors as they got older.
  • Today, most radiation-induced brain tumors are caused by radiation to the head given for the treatment of childhood cancers, especially radiation to the whole brain. These tumors usually develop around 10 to 15 years after the radiation that has been administered while the childrens’ brains are still “growing” and are more susceptible than adults’ brains.

Early Detection

At this time there are no widely recommended blood tests or other screening exams to detect brain tumors before they start to cause symptoms. These tumors usually come to light as a result of signs or symptoms the person is having such as one-sided unrelenting headaches, one-sided weakness or seizures. In most cases, the patient’s survival is determined by their age, the type of tumor, and its location, not by how early it is detected. But as with any disease, earlier detection and treatment is likely to be helpful.

Radiation Therapy Treatment Options