Brain Tumors

Brain Tumor Symptoms, Causes, and Types

There is still hope. It may appear insurmountable but you are not alone. Each year around 80,000 new cases of brain cancer are diagnosed in the US and it is estimated that 700,000 people are currently living with brain cancer. The battle against brain cancer is an arduous one and that is why we commit ourselves to your care. We’ve successfully treated thousands of patients with brain tumors by offering the latest advances in cancer treatment. We know better than most the weight cancer bears on patients and their loved ones, that is why we wish to distribute the burden by offering compassionate, personalized care, and a network of healthcare professionals that have dedicated their lives to your treatment.

Brain Tumor Survival Rate

The survival rate for brain cancer varies by several factors including the type of tumor, stage of development, malignancy, age of the patient, delay in medical intervention, and treatments performed. The following stats should be taken with caution because every patient’s condition and outcome is different. The estimated 5-year survival rate after diagnosis and/or treatment, for people with brain cancer is around 34% for men and 36% for women.

0-14 years old74.7%97.2%
15-39 years ol71.3%98.1%
TumorSurvival Rate
Glioblastoma20.8% (0–19)
21.9 % (20–44)
9.3% (45–54)
5.9 % (55–64)
3.9 %(65-74)
1.9% (75+) 
Pilocytic Astrocytoma96.6% (age 0-19)
92.3% (20–44)
80.4% (45–54)
74.0% (55–64)
68.3% (65–74)
67.0% (75+) 
Oligodendroglioma94.8 % (0–19)
90.1 % (20–44)
82 % (45–54)
69.4 % (55–64)
52.3% (65-74)
31.9% (75+)
Meningioma79.7 % (0–19)
84% (20–44)
79.4 % (45–54)
73.8% (55–64)
63.3 % (65-74)
50.2 % (75+)
Medulloblastoma73.7 % all ages
TumorSurvival Rate
Nerve sheath99.3%
Melanocytic lesions63.3%
 Ependymal tumors96.8%
 Neuronal and mixed neuronal-glial tumor95.2%
 Pineal tumors91.8%
Germ cell tumors, cysts, and heterotopias96.6%

Brain Tumor Incidence

Type of TumorUS average incidence adjusted by age per 100,000 people
Pituitary tumors3.29
Diffuse astrocytoma0.55
Glioma (malignant, not otherwise specified)0.46
Ependymal tumors0.42
Pilocytic astrocytoma0.34
Primary melanocytic lesions0.01

Brain Tumor Types

There are over 120 types of brain tumors and further subclasses. This makes establishing a proper diagnosis and an effective treatment plan complex for providers. Our center is equipped with the latest technology to assist in making an accurate diagnosis and optimal treatment plan. Our experienced neurosurgeons have effectively treated thousands of patients with brain tumors. To understand more about brain tumors it is first important to understand the fundamentals:

Primary vs Secondary Brain Tumors

Primary Brain Tumors: these are tumors that originate in the brain. They arise from cell mutations in the glial tissues, meninges, pineal gland, pituitary gland, myelin sheath of nerves (schwannomas), and immune system (lymphocytes). Tumors that arise in the Meninges (Meningiomas) are the most common primary brain tumor, accounting for 37% of all CNS tumors. Glial cells (Gliomas) are the second most common primary brain tumor, accounting for about 27% of all CNS tumors. Pituitary tumors are the third largest at about 16.4% of CNS tumors.

In adults, primary brain tumors are less common than secondary brain tumors (those originating outside the CNS). In children, the inverse is true; primary brain tumors are more common than secondary brain tumors. Brain cancer and Leukemia are the leading causes of cancer death in children accounting for approximately half of all cancer related deaths in children. Primary brain tumors in young adults and children account for 20-30% of all cancer deaths and 2.4% in adults. Adults diagnosed tend to be affected between the ages of 55 and 65. Types of primary brain tumors include: gliomas (astrocytomas, glioblastomas, oligodendroglioma, hemangiopericytomas), pituitary tumors, schwannomas (acoustic neuromas), meningiomas, and medulloblastomas.

Secondary Brain Tumors: Also called Brain Metastases, these are tumors that originate in another part of the body and spread to the brain. It is more likely that multiple brain tumors will develop as a result of brain metastases than single tumors. Common primary sites for metastatic brain tumors include the lungs, breasts, skin, kidney, and colon. The lungs are the most common primary site for brain tumors. Lung cancer spreads to the brain quickly due to the direct flow of blood between these two organs. The bloodstream or lymph nodes are primarily responsible for the transportation of migrating cancer cells to the brain.

Metastatic brain tumors are very common in adults but not in children. This in part is due to the longer length of time generalized disease and cancer cell proliferation has to develop in adults and spread to the brain than compared with children. Brain metastasis only accounts for 6-13% of all Central Nervous System Tumors in children.

Benign vs Malignant Brain Tumors

Benign tumors: Also called non-malignant tumors these tumors do not invade surrounding tissues or spread to other parts of the body. They are more common than malignant tumors accounting for 70% of all brain and spine tumors (CNS Tumors). Meningiomas are the most common benign tumor, responsible for more than half of non-malignant tumors. Even a benign tumor can be dangerous. As it begins to grow in the brain and compress the surrounding tissue, life-threatening symptoms may develop. There are several different types of benign brain tumors, each kind affects a different type of brain cell.

Malignant tumors: These tumors are highly aggressive and invasive cancer that can spread throughout the brain and spinal cord. Although not common, they can also spread outside of the central nervous system. Malignant tumors are less common than benign tumors accounting for 30% of all brain and spine tumors (CNS Tumors). Most malignant forms of brain cancer are secondary tumors. This means that they originate from outside of the brain. Tumors which begin in the brain are known as primary tumors. Glioblastomas are the most common malignant tumor, responsible for nearly half of malignant tumors.

Pursuing Complete Cancer Remission

The Miami Neuroscience Center at Larkin specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of brain tumors in adults and children. Our team of brain tumor doctors including neurosurgeons, oncologists, neurologists, and radiologists help you achieve the best possible results for you unique condition.

Brain Cancer Stages

There are 4 grades or stages of brain tumors designated by the cancer cells abnormalities under a microscope, the likeliness they will spread and invade tissue, and the speed of their growth (aggressiveness). These grades were established by the World Health Organization (WHO), Grade I and II tumors are considered low-grade tumors, while Grade II and IV are considered high-grade tumors. In general, there is a better prognosis in lower grade tumors than in high grade tumors.

Grade I: Tumors that grow slowly and do not invade nearby tissue. They closely resemble normal cells under a microscope. Treatment options include single surgical resection or radiation treatment (such as gamma knife stereotactic radiosurgery). It is unlikely that the tumor will recur after treatment. Chemotherapy is generally not utilized. Long term survival is likely if the tumor is diagnosed and treated swiftly. Types of Grade I Brain Tumors include Pilocytic Astrocytoma, Acoustic Neuroma, Ganglioglioma, and Subependymal Giant Cell Astrocytoma.

Grade II: Slow growing tumors that can invade nearby tissue. More likely to grow back (recur) after resection than Grade I Tumors. If they grow back they may present as higher grade tumors. Slight cell abnormalities can be identified through a microscope. Diffuse Astrocytoma is an example of a Grade II Brain Tumors.

Grade III: malignant (cancerous) tumors that grow quickly and will spread to other areas of the brain and spinal cord. A pathologist can clearly identify cell abnormality under a microscope. They have a higher chance of recurring and as higher grade tumors. Treatment will likely include chemotherapy in addition to resection or radiation therapy. Types of Grade III Brain Tumors include Anaplastic Astrocytoma and Anaplastic Oligodendroglioma.

Grade IV: the most malignant (cancerous) tumors that grow rapidly and infiltrate surrounding structures easily. Some tumors like Glioblastomas can even form their own blood vessels to help supply and accelerate their growth. It is likely that Grade IV Tumors will recur so a combination of aggressive treatments are used to slow and eradicate the cancer, or as much as possible. Grade IV Tumors are necrosis prone which means they have a tendency to develop dead cells at their center. Glioblastoma Multiforme is an example of a Grade IV Brain Tumors.

Brain Tumor Causes

Brain tumors are abnormal masses that develop due to cell mutation, rapid division, growth, and continued life past that of normal cells. Carcinogenesis is the process by which normal cells are structurally and genetically altered to form cancer cells. Carcinogenesis is a multi step process in which the mutated cells eventually sustain themselves, becoming autonomous.

The exact cause of the mutation is not clearly established although some factors like hereditary syndromes, radiation exposure (ionizing radiation), and immune system suppression have been proven to give rise to a small percent of primary brain tumors. Some hereditary syndromes that increase the risk for brain tumors include Neurofibromatosis Type 1 and 2, Tuberous Sclerosis, Von Hippel-Lindau Syndrome (VHL), Li-Fraumeni Syndrome, among other syndromes. 

Further studies are needed to establish a clearer understanding of environmental agents or endogenous (internal) factors causing cell mutation such as:

  • Carcinogenic exposure or consumption
  • Chemical exposure
  • Infectious agents
  • Occupations including agriculture, farming, rubber or plastic production, roofing, military, and cleaning services

Brain Tumor Symptoms

Early diagnosis and treatment is key in the fight against brain cancer. That is why we put this page together to help you identify the signs and symptoms of brain tumors and seek treatment right away. If you suspect that you have a brain tumor or have been diagnosed by a neurologist, radiologist, neuropathologist, or neuro-oncologists, call us immediately to schedule a consultation and begin the path to your recovery.

Brain tumors can increase pressure, damage, and destruction on surrounding tissue and nerves, block pathways that transport cerebrospinal fluid, and alter brain functions. Depending on the size of the tumor and the regions of the brain affected symptoms may be expressed by motor, cognitive, or behavioral changes including:

  • Seizures (first symptom in 21.3% of patients)
  • Headaches (first symptom in 23.5% of patients)
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness or Difficulty walking
  • Changes in speech
  • Weakness or paralysis
  • Disequilibrium (vertigo)
  • Obstructed or blurred vision
  • Ringing in ear or impaired hearing
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Neuralgia (Stabbing, Shocking, Burning, or Electrical pain)
  • Facial Pain (Trigeminal Neuralgia)
  • Personality changes

Brain Cancer Risk Factors

Risk factors for brain cancer may include:

  • Age: Brain tumors are more common in older adults or young children.
  • Gender: Generally, tumors occur more frequently in men than in women. In addition, tumors in men tend to be more severe or cancerous than similar tumors in women.
  • Environmental factors: Environmental toxins such as exposure to radiation  chemicals, and carcinogens, may increase the risk.
  • Genetics: Some inherited syndromes can increase the risk of brain tumors such as tuberous sclerosis and neurofibromatosis. 


  • National Brain Tumor Society, “Brain Tumors By The Numbers” December 2015.
  • Cancer.Net, “Brain Tumor: Statistics” American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), March 2019.
  • Quinn T Ostrom; Gino Cioffi; Haley Gittleman; Nirav Patil; Kristin Waite; Carol Kruchko; Jill S Barnholtz-Sloan, “CBTRUS Statistical Report: Primary Brain and Other Central Nervous System Tumors Diagnosed in the United States in 2012–2016” Oxford University Press, November 2019.
  • Allen Perkins, Md, Mph; Gerald Liu, Md, “Primary Brain Tumors in Adults: Diagnosis and Treatment” American Academy of Family Physicians, February 2016.
  • Ostrom QT; Gittleman H; Truitt G; Boscia A; Kruchko C; Barnholtz-Sloan JS, “CBTRUS Statistical Report: Primary Brain and Other Central Nervous System Tumors Diagnosed in the United States in 2011-2015.” National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), October 2019.
  • Quinn T. Ostrom, Ph.D., M.P.H., “Epidemiology of Glioma” Case Western Reserve University, November 2017.
  • National Cancer Instuitute, “Cancer in Children and Adolescents” October 2018.
  • Sally C. Curtin, M.A.; Arialdi M. Miniño, M.P.H.; Robert N. Anderson, Ph.D., “Declines in Cancer Death Rates Among Children and Adolescents in the United States, 1994-2014” National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), September 2016.
  • Katharine A. McNeill, MD, “Epidemiology of Brain Tumors” November 2016.
  • American Brain Tumor Association, “Metastatic Brain Tumors”