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There are many different types of brain tumors. Whether you are just beginning the diagnosis process or already have a treatment scheduled, educating yourself about your condition is a powerful way to play an active role in your care.

The following information reviews some of the most common brain tumor causes by type for both adult and pediatric patients. You may find this particularly helpful if you are just beginning to learn about your own condition.

Primary vs. Secondary Brain Tumors

To help understand the different types of brain tumor causes, it can be helpful to distinguish between those known as primary and secondary brain tumors. In a primary brain tumor, the cells that make up the tumor originate within the brain, such as an astrocytoma made up of astrocytes. By contrast, a secondary brain tumor consists of cells from another site in the body, such as breast cancer cells that have metastasized to the brain.

Benign vs. Malignant Brain Tumors

Another way to differentiate between types of brain tumors is to classify them as benign or malignant. Some types of brain tumors are always benign, some are always malignant and some benign tumors may become malignant over time. This is one reason it is important to work with an expert in the NJ area who can help diagnose your condition quickly and accurately.

A benign brain tumor tends to grow slowly, and is one that does not have the potential to invade local tissues or spread to other sites of the body. On the other hand, a malignant tumor can grow rapidly and spread into nearby tissues and cause significant damage. Benign tumors can still cause problems by pressing on adjacent structures, which may necessitate treatment.

Common Brain Tumor Causes in Adults

There are many types of brain tumors that can occur in adults. Some of the most common are outlined below.


An astrocytoma develops from astrocytes, star-shaped cells that help provide support to the brain. An astrocytoma is a type of glioma (which arises from glial cells) and is the most common type of primary brain tumor in adults. Astrocytomas are classified based on grade and range from benign to malignant.

Metastatic tumors

Metastatic brain tumors grow from cells that have spread from cancer at another site in the body. Common sources include breast, lung and colon cancers. Metastatic tumors are the most common type of brain tumor in adult patients. Patients often have more than one metastatic brain tumor, and the likelihood of recurrence is high following treatment.


The meninges are a thin layer of tissue that covers the entire brain and spinal cord and is the origin of a meningioma. Meningiomas tend to be benign and slow-growing. They make up approximately 37 percent of adult brain tumors. They do have the potential to transform into malignant tumors and require management by an expert in adult brain tumors.

Vestibular schwannoma

Also known as an acoustic neuroma, vestibular schwannomas are benign tumors that develop from the Schwann cells that surround the vestibulocochlear nerve. This is the nerve responsible for hearing and balance, and these tumors can affect both.

Pituitary tumors

The pituitary gland is made up of many different types of cells, and each cell type secretes hormones that have effects throughout the body. Pituitary tumors can be very small and asymptomatic. However, they have the potential to secrete excess hormones and/or grow large enough to press on adjacent structures, requiring treatment.

Pediatric Brain Tumor Causes

Approximately 4,200 children are diagnosed with brain tumors in the United States annually. Children tend to have different types of brain tumors than adults, with some of the more common listed here.


Astrocytomas are the most common type of brain tumor in children. They tend to be low-grade in nature but have the potential to become malignant. It is important to work with an expert in the NJ area who has experience in managing pediatric brain tumors if your child is diagnosed with an astrocytoma.


A craniopharyngioma is a benign tumor that develops at the base of the brain. Nearly all craniopharyngiomas occur in children under 14 years old. Because of its proximity to the pituitary gland, a craniopharyngioma can have significant effects on growth and development, even though it is benign.


Approximately 20 percent of pediatric brain tumors are medulloblastomas. These tumors tend to occur in children under 10 years old and form in the area of the brain responsible for balance, posture, swallowing, speech and fine motor skills. There are ten different types of medulloblastoma, and each type responds differently to particular treatments.

Brain Tumors Require Expert Care

There are many different brain tumor causes and types in both children and adults. It is important to work with a brain tumor specialist in the Tristate area who can use his or her expertise to help guide you through your diagnosis and treatment planning process. No two patients are exactly alike, and neither are two brain tumors. Take the time to find an NJ expert you can trust, allowing you to rest easy knowing your health (or your child’s health) is in good hands.