What is a Brain Tumour?

Brain tumours may occur at any age, and do not appear to show predilections for ethnic groups or gender.  Though there may be certain associations between the occurrence of brain tumours and a history of exposure to harmful factors including radiation and certain chemicals, as well as possible genetic predisposition, the reason for their occurrence remains largely unexplained.

Benign brain tumours are generally not infiltrative in character, grow relatively slowly, and are usually amenable to complete surgical removal, and sometimes to non-surgical treatment alone.  They do not show a tendency towards recurrence, recur if at all after an interval of many years, and usually do not recur with malignant change.  Though they carry a generally good prognosis in terms of life expectancy and a better quality of life following treatment, depending on location, permanent disabilities may occur.

Malignant brain tumours are generally infiltrative in character, grow relatively quickly, and usually require more than surgical treatment alone.  Surgical treatment, when possible, is often followed by radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy.  They carry a relatively negative prognosis in all respects, and some sort of permanent disability to various extents usually remains following treatment.

Primary brain tumours refer to those which arise within the brain and its membranes itself, or from primitive developmental residual remnants and they do not usually metastasise outside the central nervous system. The majority of primary brain tumours, however, are either progressively malignant, or recurrent with increasing grades of malignancy in spite of early diagnosis or initial low-grade histology and systematic treatment.  They are characterised by direct damage to normal brain tissue stemming from malignant change and infiltration of neighbouring, sensitive structures.

Secondary brain tumours refer to metastases from malignant tumours in other areas of the body.

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