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Brain & Spinal Tumors

What Are Brain & Spinal Tumors?

Brain and spinal tumors are masses or growths in the tissues of the brain or spinal cord, together known as the central nervous system (CNS). These tumors can occur in people of any age and may be malignant (cancerous) or benign (noncancerous).

As they grow, brain and spinal tumors can place pressure on or destroy sensitive CNS tissues. The resulting damage can cause problems with mental and physical function and may be life-threatening.

While the exact causes of many brain and spine tumors are not known, their development is associated with several risk factors, including:

  • Environmental factors, such as exposure to radiation or toxic chemicals. 

  • Genetic changes, either at birth or acquired over a lifetime. 

  • Metastasis, which occurs when cancer spreads to the brain or spinal cord from another part of the body, such as the breast, colon, lung or skin.


Symptoms vary depending on the type and location of tumor. 

Brain Tumor Symptoms

  • Behavior changes — The tumor may cause unexplained depression, mood swings or personality changes. 

  • Cognitive changes — Difficulty thinking, remembering, communicating and making decisions may develop.

  • Frequent nausea or vomiting — These symptoms may accompany headaches.

  • Headaches — Tumor-related headaches may be worst upon waking.

  • Loss of coordination — If the tumor presses on critical nerves, it could cause trouble with walking or balance.

  • Seizures — Brief episodes of unconsciousness and muscular twitching may come on suddenly.

Spinal Tumor Symptoms

  • Pain — Pain in the back may spread to the arms or legs.

  • Weakness or numbness — These symptoms can develop in the limbs and may cause difficulty walking.

Treatment Options

Treatment options depend on the specific diagnosis and may include:

  • Chemotherapy — Anticancer drugs taken by mouth or injected intravenously can kill cancer cells or stop them from multiplying.

  • Medications — Steroids may be prescribed to reduce tumor-related swelling. 

  • Radiation therapy — Specialized energy beams target and kill or prevent the growth of cancer cells.

  • Surgery — Minimally invasive or open procedures can be used to relieve pressure on delicate structures and/or remove as much of the tumor as possible.

Ready for an Appointment?

If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of brain and spinal tumors, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat brain and spinal tumors.

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