What are the Most Common Types of Brain Tumors?

While a brain tumor diagnosis may be disturbing to receive, not all tumors are a threat to life. In fact, the most common type of brain tumor is usually benign and may often be treated without surgery. The symptoms of many brain tumors, however, are similar.

The World Health Organization classifies over 130 types of brain tumors, though some are more common than others. Brain tumors are generally classed by the cells that produce them and the part of the brain where they’re located.


Accounting for up to 30% of brain tumors, meningiomas are more common in women and older people. Children only rarely develop tumors of this type. There are three membranes that protect the brain and spinal cord. A tumor that forms in any of these membranes is a meningioma, and these are usually slow to grow and benign, though sometimes they can develop more aggressively.

The cause of most brain tumors is typically unknown, and such is the case with meningiomas. Excessive exposure to radiation is the only identifiable cause from the environment. Certain genetic conditions, such as neurofibromatosis type 2 can increase your risk of developing meningiomas or other types of brain tumor.


The most common form of malignant brain tumor in adults is the glioblastoma. It, too, occurs only rarely in children. These tumors develop from brain tissue called glial cells, and tumors of this type develop tendrils that spread easily to other parts of the brain. Usually, glioblastomas are aggressive and difficult to effectively combat.


Astrocytomas start from brain cells called astrocytes, the most abundant cells in the brain.  Brain tumors overall are graded from 1 to 4 based on how likely they may be to spread and how fast they grow.

Astrocytomas can be any grade, and astrocytoma grade 4 is another name for glioblastoma. Other types of brain tumors may also grow from astrocytes, even if “astrocytoma” isn’t part of their name.

Pituitary adenoma

Tumors of the pituitary gland aren’t, strictly speaking, brain tumors, since they affect the endocrine system. Typically, pituitary adenomas are common and benign, with 20% of the population experiencing them at some point.

Often, these tumors are harmless and only discovered during diagnostic imaging for other conditions. There are rare cases that these tumors create more serious side effects.

Acoustic neuroma

Also called vestibular schwannoma, acoustic neuromas are slow-growing and benign. They’re  rarely life-threatening and grow along the eighth cranial nerve, which is responsible for balance and hearing. Symptoms of the tumor often include hearing issues and balance problems. These tumors originate in Schwann cells, which serve as a protective and supportive layer around nerves.


Belonging to the sub-type of brain tumors called gliomas, this tumor develops from a specific glial cell called an oligodendrocyte. These cells usually produce the myelin sheath that protects the brain’s nerve cells. Classed into grade 2 or grade 3, oligodendroglioma is either benign and slow to grow, or malignant and faster growing.

Whenever you have symptoms consistent with brain tumors, contact the Seattle Neuroscience Institute, by phone or online, to schedule a consultation and examination. As with many medical conditions, catching tumors early increases your chances for successful treatment.

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