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Primary and secondary brain tumours

Find out the difference between a primary and a secondary brain tumour.

Primary brain tumours

Primary brain tumours start in the brain. Tumours can start in any part of the brain or related structures.

The most common types of brain tumours in adults start in the main part of the brain called the cerebrum. About a quarter of tumours (24%) start in the meninges. These are the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. Around 1 in 10 (10%) tumours start in the glands of the brain such as the pituitary gland or pineal gland. 

In children the picture is slightly different. 6 out of 10 (60%) childhood tumours start in part of the brain called the cerebellum or the brain stem. Only 4 out of 10 (40%) start in the cerebrum. 

Secondary brain tumours

Cancers that have spread to the brain from somewhere else in the body are called secondary brain tumours or brain metastases.

Cancers of the lung, breast, kidney, stomach, bowel (colon), and melanoma skin cancer can all spread to the brain. This happens because cancer cells break away from the primary cancer and travel through the bloodstream to lodge in the brain. There they can begin to grow into new tumours. 

Information and help

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About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.