Brain Cancer



The central nervous system comprising of brain and spinal cord are affected by cancers. Primary brain tumors arise in the brain and generally do not spread to other parts of the body; secondary tumors (or metastases), are caused by cancers that arise in another part of the body [1] . Brain cancer is the ninth leading cause of cancer death around the world. According to the Globocan 2018 report, the incidence rate and mortality rate for brain cancer was found to be 2.4% and 3.1% respectively in India.

Types of Brain Cancer

Malignant brain tumors

These tumors are generally high grade (grade 3 or 4). Their growth will start either in the brain or spread into the brain from elsewhere and are more likely to return after treatment.


Genetic mutations cause some rare inherited syndromes (like neurofibromatosis, tuberous sclerosis, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, and von Hippel-Lindau syndrome) which increase the risk of developing some brain and spinal cord tumors.

Risk Factors

Following are the risk factors associated with brain cancer.

Radiation exposure

Radiation-induced brain tumors are caused by radiation to the head for treatment of other cancers. Many a times, they occur in people who received radiation to the brain in childhood as part of treatment for their leukemia.

Family History

This is not a common risk factor.

Weak immune system:

People with weakened immune systems may have an increased risk of developing lymphomas of the brain or spinal cord (known as primary CNS lymphomas).

Signs & symptoms

General symptoms include headache, nausea, vomiting, blurry visions, and seizures.

Numbness of one side of the body if tumor develops in cerebrum.

Brain tumors in the frontal part of the cerebrum affects the language, personality, and thinking.

Tumours in back part of the cerebrum affect the visual system.

Difficulty in walking, movement of legs, hands, and arms, difficulty in swallowing are some of the symptoms seen if the cerebellum is affected by tumor.

Tumor in spinal cord leads to numbness, bladder problems, and weakness.


SPECT (Single Proton Emission Computerized Tomography): It captures 3-D pictures of the blood flow in the brain and the brighter area on the scan represents tumor with higher blood flow.

Lumbar puncture: A lumbar puncture, also known as spinal tap, is used to conduct a test for cancer cells which makes use of a needle to collect cerebrospinal fluid.

PET scan: A Positron Emission Tomography (PET) examines the cancer cells by injecting a radioactive solution- cancer cells absorb this radioactive solution faster than the normal cells.

MRS: A Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS) can detect the changes in the chemical make-up of the brain.