Brain tumours are relatively rare and the exact causes are unknown. The National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) provides the brief facts.
A tumour, which is a mass of abnormal cells, can be either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Brain cancer is diagnosed only when the tumour is malignant, spreading aggressively and invading adjacent areas in the brain and destroying the normal cells. A benign tumour typically remains localised but can still cause harm by compressing adjacent brain structures.
“A brain tumour doesn’t always originate in the brain. A tumour can develop in another part of the body and spread to the brain,” says Associate Professor Ng Wai Hoe, Senior Consultant and Head of the
Department of Neurosurgery at the
National Neuroscience Institute (NNI), a member of the
A tumour that originates in the brain is called a primary brain tumour, and one that originates elsewhere and spreads to the brain is called a secondary or metastatic tumour. Secondary brain tumours are cancerous and are unfortunately more common than primary ones.
How do you get a brain tumour?
The exact cause of a primary brain tumour is unknown. A secondary brain tumour is caused by cancer spreading from another part of the body. Doctors have identified some risk factors for developing a primary brain tumour. These risk factors include:
Age: The risk for brain tumour typically increases with age. People over the age of 65 have a higher risk.
Race: Caucasians are more prone to developing a brain tumour.
Gender: Males are prone to brain tumours.
Exposure to ionizing radiation: Radiation therapy for treating cancers such as leukaemia, and radiation exposure from atomic bombs.
“Genetic conditions such as neurofibromatosis and Li-Fraumeni syndrome increase your risk of developing a brain tumour and brain cancer. However, these account for a very small percentage of cases”, adds A/Prof Ng.
Mobile phones, power lines and microwave ovens have NOT been proven to be risk factors for developing a brain tumour.
Read on for the symptoms and types of brain tumour.