Brain Tumor Risk Factors

A doctor uses a digital tablet to discuss a brain scan image.

A tumor is a mass of abnormal cells that can grow anywhere in the body. Preventing tumor growth is not yet possible but there are known risk factors. Brain tumors most often occur because of metastasis from cancer elsewhere in the body though they can also be the primary site of cancer or even a non-cancerous tumor. Here, the Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics in Northern New Jersey explains what to be aware of.

Types of Brain Tumors

According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, there are more than 150 types of brain tumors. Some brain tumors are benign (not cancerous) while others are malignant (cancerous). The tumor type is based on the origins of the tissue that excessively grows to form the mass. For example, meningiomas of the brain form from the meningeal cells which collectively form the meninges which is the outlayer of tissue that covers the brain. Most meningiomas are benign, but some meningiomas form a subtype that are malignant.

Brain tumors are labeled either primary or secondary. A primary brain tumor originates in the brain and may spread or metastasize to other parts of the body. In contrast, a secondary brain tumor is the result of tumor cells that first form in a different part of the body the metastasize to the brain.

The following types of brain tumors are typically benign and do not metastasize:

These brain tumors are malignant and may metastasize:

Doctors use imaging tests such as MRIs and CT scans to help visualize and diagnose tumors. Some tumor types can only be confirmed via a biopsy.

Who Is at Risk?

Patients of all ages can have a brain tumor develop. There are some risk factors, however, that increase the likelihood of a brain tumor. These include:

  • Age: While brain tumors can occur in patients of any age, rates of brain cancer are higher among adults over the age of 65. Certain types of tumors, like medulloblastoma, are more common in children than in adults.
  • Gender: Certain types of brain tumors, such as meningioma, are more common in female patients than in males. In general, however, men are more likely than women to develop a brain tumor.
  • Race and ethnicity: Studies in the United States have shown that white people are more likely to develop gliomas than other racial groups. People of African descent are at a higher risk for meningiomas than any other racial group.
  • Family medical history: Some types of brain tumors are linked to genetic factors or inherited conditions. For example, patients with neurofibromatosis Type I or Type II can pass this trait to their children and are genetically predisposed to developing nerve sheath tumors.
  • Radiation exposure: Patients who have had extended exposure to radiation, such as during cancer treatment, or environmental disaster are more susceptible to developing brain tumors.
  • Compromised immune system: Patients with a weak immune system are more likely to develop lymphoma of the brain.

Treatment for Brain Tumors

The recommended course of treatment for a brain tumor will vary by its type, location, size, and the patient’s overall health. Some tumors can be surgically removed while others are best treated first with proton therapy or radiation.

Radiation Treatment Options

During radiation treatment, high-energy photon beams are directed at the site of a patient’s tumor to shrink or eradicate abnormal cells. Radiation therapy is the most common cancer treatment method and it can also be used for noncancerous tumors.

Whole-brain radiation therapy may be recommended for patients who have multiple microscopic tumors throughout their brain tissue. For treating individual brain tumors, craniotomy, stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) may be more effective, such as CyberKnife, Gamma Knife, or linear accelerator (LINAC) treatment. SRS uses targeted radiation beams to minimize damage to surrounding tissues.

Another option is proton therapy, which delivers a more precise dose of radiation than traditional photon treatment. This can help minimize the side effects of radiation.

Surgical Treatment Options

Some brain tumors can be safely accessed and removed via surgery. Traditional brain surgery, called a craniotomy, involved removing a portion of the skull to directly access the brain. However, there are several less invasive options, depending on the tumor’s location. Tumors near the pituitary gland can be removed via endoscopic transsphenoidal surgery, which accesses the tumor through the nasal passage. Other tumors can be removed using minimally invasive brain surgery, requiring just a small incision in a discreet location, such as behind the ear or in the hairline.

Get Expert Care at the Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics

Located in Northern New Jersey and serving patients in the surrounding area, Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics specializes in treating a wide range of spine and brain tumors with advanced medical technology. Each patient receives a comprehensive evaluation from CNSO’s board-certified neurosurgical doctors to determine the best course of treatment. To schedule an appointment, contact us today.

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