Primary Brain Tumors

Gliomas are the most commonly diagnosed of both benign and malignant primary brain tumors. There are several different types of glial cells, astrocytes, oligodendrocytes and ependymal cells Glial tumors account for 45-50% of all primary brain tumors. The most common gliomas are astrocytomas, ependymomas, oligodendrogliomas and tumors with mixtures of two or more of these cell types.

William Beaumont Hospital employs a multidisciplinary approach for treating gliomas involving both radiation oncologists and neurologists to determine the best course of treatment for each individual patient. There are different treatment options, these include observation, surgery and/or radiation or chemotherapy. Because astrocytomas can grow very slowly, lower grade tumors may need nothing more than close observation. Higher grade astrocytomas are surgically removed whenever possible, followed by a treatment regimen of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. In some cases complete surgical removal is not possible and in these cases Gamma Knife may be an appropriate treatment either alone or following surgery. Whenever possible, ependymomas and oligodendrogliomas are removed surgically. Gamma Knife may be used for a tumor that is not able to be removed surgically or for a recurrence of a tumor after surgery.

A primary malignant brain tumor is one that originates in the brain itself. Although primary brain tumors often shed cancerous cells to other sites in the central nervous system (the brain or spine), they rarely spread to other parts of the body. Brain tumors are generally named and classified according to the following:

(a) The type of brain cells from which they originate, or

(b) The location in which the cancer develops