Specific Types of Brain Tumors and Disorders

There are more than 120 types of primary brain tumors and abnormalities, and Roswell Park has the experts and resources to diagnose them accurately and treat them effectively. Here are just some types of brain tumors and conditions we treat:

Acoustic neuroma

A slow-growing tumor of the nerve that connects the ear to the brain. Although is not cancer, if left untreated, it can grow and damage vital nerves or compress the brainstem and cerebellum.


A benign tumor that arises from the pituitary gland. It can cause abnormal secretion of hormones or impair normal hormone function, or press on the optic nerves that transmit vision.

Arteriovenous malformation

A tangle of abnormal connections between the veins and arteries in the brain is known as an arteriovenous malformation. Typically it is present from birth, but may be diagnosed if it causes bleeding in the brain.


The most common type of glioma, this tumor begins in astrocytes, the star-shaped cells in the cerebrum, cerebellum or brainstem. Astrocytomas do not usually spread outside the brain or affect other organs. There are a number of different types and grades of astrocytoma.


This rare tumor forms most commonly at the base of the skull or at the bottom of the spine and can invade nearby tissues. These tumors are generally slow-growing, but after treatment they can come back in the area where they first began or may spread to other parts of the body.

Choroid plexus tumors

These tumors affect mostly children. They begin in the choroid plexus, a network of brain cells that produce cerebrospinal fluid.


This tumor begins in small nests of cells near the pituitary stalk, which connects the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus — the part of the brain that regulates body temperature and controls appetite and other important functions.


This tumor begins in the ependymal cells that line the brain passageways where cerebrospinal fluid is produced and circulated.

Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM)

The most aggressive type of glioma, glioblastoma multiforme — also called grade IV astrocytoma — occurs mostly in adults between 45-70 years old. It is the most common primary brain tumor and also the most common malignant brain tumor in adults. It grows rapidly and is made up of cells that look very abnormal.


Glioma is a general term used to identify any tumor that arises from the supportive tissue of the brain. The three main types of gliomas are astrocytoma, oligodendroglioma, and ependymoma. While not always aggressive, gliomas can invade surrounding brain tissue.


This rare tumor most commonly located in the cerebellum (balance control region) is made up of many small blood vessels and often a fluid-filled cyst.


This condition occurs when cerebrospinal fluid builds up due to the blockage of normal flow patterns in the brain. This is often treated by either installing a shunt (drainage tube) or by a procedure called endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV).


This rare genetic brain condition develops in the corpus callosum — a wide, flat bundle of neural fibers beneath the cortex of the brain. Lipomas seldom cause symptoms and do not need to be treated.

Primary central nervous system lymphoma (PCNSL)

This is also called microglioma or primary brain lymphoma. The condition occurs mostly in elderly people or in younger people with severely compromised or weakened immune systems (for example, AIDS patients).


This fast-growing cancer begins in embryonal or immature cells at the earliest stage of their development. Most medulloblastomas occur in children, but about one-third are diagnosed in adults between the ages of 20-44.


Meningiomas begin in the meninges, the membrane layers surrounding the central nervous system. About one-third of all primary brain tumors are meningiomas, which are usually benign.

Metastatic brain tumors

Metastatic — or secondary — brain tumors begin as cancer in another part of the body (for example, the breast or lung). Some of the cancer cells may be carried to the brain through the bloodstream or may spread from nearby tissue. The site where the cancer cells began is referred to as the primary cancer.


This tumor begins in the nerve sheath, the tissue that surrounds and protects the peripheral nerves that branch out from the brain and spinal cord. Neurofibromas most commonly occur in people with a genetic disorder called neurofibromatosis type 1. If you have neurofibromatosis type 1, you may want to consider genetic counseling and testing. Roswell Park’s Clinical Genetics Service is the only center in Buffalo with formally trained genetic counselors who specialize exclusively in assessing inherited cancer risk.

Neuronal and mixed neuronal-glial tumors

These rare tumors begin in the brain or spinal cord. Neuronal tumors begin in nerve cells called neurons, while neuronal-glial tumors also contain glial cells, which support and protect neurons. These types of tumors tend to grow slowly but can cause seizures and other symptoms.


A subset of glioma, often called a mixed glioma, usually composed of both astrocytoma- and oligodendroglioma-like cells.


A tumor that begins in oligodendrocytes, one of the types of cells that make up the supportive, or glial, tissue of the brain.

Pineal tumors

This rare tumor forms in or around the pineal gland, near the center of the brain. There are a number of different types.

Pituitary tumors

Almost all pituitary tumors are benign glandular tumors called pituitary adenomas. Because they don't spread to other parts of the body, these tumors are considered benign, but they can still cause significant health problems. This is due to the fact that they’re close to the brain, and many of them produce too much of one or more hormones. Pituitary cancers (called pituitary carcinomas) are very rare.

Primitive neuroectodermal embryonal tumor (PNET)

These tumors usually occur in children and in young adults under 25. They begin in cells that are left over from when the body first began developing in the womb.


A schwannoma is a slow-growing tumor of a cranial nerve — a nerve that branches out directly from the brain. Although they can occur anywhere in the body, the most common location of these tumors is the 8th cranial nerve, which sends messages from the inner ear to the brain to manage sound and balance. These tumors are known as acoustic neuromas (relating to sound) or vestibular schwannomas (related to balance). Common symptoms are one-sided hearing loss and buzzing or ringing in the affected ear.

Trigeminal neuralgia (TN)

This nerve disorder causes a stabbing or electric-shock-like pain on one side of the forehead, cheek or jaw. Most often it is due to a blood vessel pressing on the 5th cranial (trigeminal) nerve.

How Are Brain Tumors Diagnosed?