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Benign (non-cancerous) brain tumors

Benign Brain Tumors

A brain tumor does not always mean cancer. If you are experiencing symptoms that may indicate a brain tumor, Dr. Mina Foroohar will carefully evaluate you and order imaging studies such as MRIs, MRAs, and CT scans so she can confirm a diagnosis.

Being diagnosed with a brain tumor also does not automatically mean you will need surgery. Dr. Foroohar is skilled in advanced treatment technology such as CyberKnife non-invasive radiosurgery that can treat even hard-to-reach tumors.

Some benign brain tumors require no treatment at all. Once Dr. Foroohar has diagnosed your condition, she will thoroughly explain her recommended treatment plan.

What is a benign brain tumor?

A brain tumor is defined as an abnormal growth of cells in the brain. Benign brain tumors do not contain cancer cells, unlike malignant brain tumors.

What are the most common types of benign brain tumors?

  • Meningiomas. According to the Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States (CBTRUS), meningiomas represent 34% of all primary brain tumors, making them the most common primary brain tumor. A meningioma is a type of tumor that grows from the protective membranes or meninges surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

    Meningiomas can occur in any part of the brain. The location of a meningioma will determine the symptoms. Some meningiomas can be fairly large; these tumors are not in the brain tissue itself, but can push into the brain tissue as the meningioma enlarges.

    Nine out of 10 meningiomas are categorized as benign tumors, according to the Brain Science Foundation. Approximately 7-8% are classified as atypical, and only 2-3% of meningiomas are malignant.

    Meningiomas may be treated in several ways:

    In some cases, no treatment may be necessary.

  • Pituitary benign tumors. CBTRUS reports that 13% of primary brain tumors develop in the pituitary gland, also known as the master gland because it produces many ofthe body's hormones. This pea-sized endocrine gland lies at the base of the brain.

    Symptoms of a pituitary tumor can include:

    • Hormonal dysfunction
    • Visual problems
    • Headaches

    Dr. Foroohar performs pituitary tumor surgery in partnership with an otolaryngologist, or ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist.

  • Acoustic neuromas. A tumor off the eighth cranial nerve associated with hearing is known as an acoustic neuroma or schwannoma. An acoustic neuroma can occurinside the ear or in the brain itself. About 9% of benign tumors are acoustic neuromas.

    Symptoms of an acoustic neuroma may include:

    • Hearing loss in one ear
    • Ringing (tinnitus) in one ear
    • Vertigo (dizziness)
    • A pressure headache on one side
    • Facial weakness and numbness

    Dr. Foroohar performs CyberKnife non-invasive radiosurgery to treat acoustic neuromas.

This is merely an overview of the most common types of benign brain tumors. Dr. Foroohar also treats less-common types of tumors beyond the scope of this web site. She treats spinal cord tumors as well.

Dr. Mina Foroohar answers questions about benign brain tumors

What is a lesion?

A lesion is simply any change in tissue—whether due to a tumor, inflammation, blood, infection, scar tissue or dead cells resulting from a stroke. If your MRI or CT scan shows one or more lesions in the brain, the next step is to determine its nature; then I can recommend an appropriate treatment plan.

What age group tends to develop meningiomas?

Meningiomas can occur in people from their 20s to their 90s. The average age of onset for meningiomas is 62, according to the Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States.

I recently saw a young patient who had an eight-centimeter meningioma in the frontal region of her brain. There was significant brain swelling, but she had only a headache and mild confusion. The patient was actually in school getting her master's degree. Her family brought her in since she was acting strangely. We did emergency surgery on her the next day.

Another meningioma patient I operated on last year was an attorney. His only symptoms were headache and mild confusion—very subtle findings for such a large tumor in his head.

Can a benign brain tumor ever become cancerous?

It's always possible, but very unlikely.

Is it ever safe not to treat a benign brain tumor?

Yes. An MRI will help determine whether it is safe to leave a benign tumor untreated.

If left untreated, do benign brain tumors continue to grow?

Some benign tumors grow, but very slowly. An annual MRI allows us to monitor the size and growth of benign tumors.

Can a benign tumor come back after it is surgically removed?


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