Brain Cancer Reviewed by Dr Sein Lwin

What is a Brain Cancer (vs a Brain Tumor)

What is a brain tumor

What is a brain tumor? Is it the same as brain cancer? The answer is no – Not all brain tumors are cancerous, but even benign ones should be of concern as they can be life-threatening due to their location or their size.

What is a brain tumor?

When abnormal cells grow in the brain, this results in a brain tumor. There are over 120 types of brain tumor, based on what brain tissues are affected. It is possible for a brain tumor to form in any part of the brain or of the skull, including in the skull base, the brainstem, the sinuses, and more. Even when non-cancerous, brain tumors can be very dangerous when they put pressure on and damage vital parts of the brain. They can also impede the flow of fluid around the brain, which can then lead to increased pressure in the skull. Certain types of tumors may also spread through the spinal fluid to other parts of the brain or of the spine. In very rare instances, a benign tumor may become cancerous.

What is a brain cancer?

Malignant brain tumors are brain cancers. Primary brain cancers originate from brain cells, and are generally named after the originating tissue. The majority of brain cancers are glioma (from glial cells), including:

  • astrocytomas,
  • medulloblastomas,
  • oligodendrogliomas,
  • ependymomas and
  • mixed cell type gliomas.

Other types of brain cancers include:

  • meningiomas,
  • chordomas and
  • central nervous system lymphomas.

Brain cancers may either be fast growing (high grade), such as glioblastoma – or slow growing (low grade).

Cancers which are spread from other organs to the brain are called brain metastases.

Are Brain Cancer and Brain Tumors Common in Singapore?

Brain cancers are uncommon in Singapore, with only about 1,903 cases reported between 1968 and 2007. While cancers of the brain and central nervous system are not among the overall top 10 cancers for males and females in Singapore, younger people are relatively more susceptible to them and the Singapore Cancer Registry finds that they are the 3rd most common cancers affecting males below the age of 29, and the 6th most common cancer affecting females in the same age group (2015-2019 data).

Cancers found in the brain are usually brain metastases that originated from other organs.

[Updated 11 Oct 22]

This article is reviewed by Dr Sein Lwin.
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This article is informative only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.