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UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center

Many types of tumors start in the brain and spinal cord or central nervous system (CNS). Symptoms, prognosis and treatment depend on age, the tumor type and the location of the tumor within the CNS. Most adult brain tumors are gliomas. With a few exceptions, CNS tumors are almost always cancerous. Unless surgeons can completely remove the tumor, it will continue to grow and eventually lead to death. In Los Angeles County, in an average year about 2,095 people will be diagnosed with brain and spinal cord cancers. Of those, 1,415 will die.

Risk Factors
  • Environmental – Radiation is the only established environmental risk factor.
  • Immune System – Those with impaired immune systems are at increased risk.
  • Family History - Rare cases of brain and spinal cord cancers run in families.
  • Cell Phone Use – Many studies have been done and most found no connection with brain tumors. Several studies, mostly from Sweden, suggested that those who used cell phones extensively for many years may be at increased risk.

Prevention
Most brain and spinal cord tumors are not associated with any known risk factors and occur for no apparent reason. As a result, most brain cancers cannot be prevented.

Treatment
The first step in treatment is surgical removal of as much of the tumor as possible without destroying normal function. Some tumors can be cured by surgical removal alone or by surgery and radiation therapy. Chemotherapy is an option, both systemic and also in wafers, which are placed directly into the tumor. Growth factor inhibitors such as Tarceva and Iressa have been shown to shrink tumors in some patients. Cortisone-like drugs such as Decadron also are given to reduce swelling that often occurs around brain tumors.

Sources: American Cancer Society, California Cancer Registry

Last updated: 7/10/2008 10:46:13 AM