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Brain Tumor FAQ

What is a brain tumor?

A brain tumor is a mass of abnormal cells that forms in the brain. They begin when normal cells develop mutations and grow and divide at increased rates. There are many different types of brain tumors, including some that are benign and others that are malignant.

Brain tumors are classified as primary, because they originate in the brain and central nervous system, and metastatic, which means the cancer has spread from other parts of the body. These include breast, colon, kidney, lung and melanoma cancers.

The most common primary brain tumors found in adults are gliomas and astrocytic tumors, which are named for the type of glial cells that normally keep neurons healthy. Also common are meningeal brain tumors, which form in the layer of tissue that covers the brain and spinal cord.

Tumors originating in the brain begin when normal cells develop mutations and begin to grow and divide at increased rates. The resulting abnormal cells form a tumor. The many different kinds of primary brain tumors are named for the types of cells involved.

What causes a brain tumor?

The cause of brain tumors is unknown. Only a few risk factors have been linked to brain tumors, including exposure to radiation of the head in childhood and rare genetic conditions such as neurofibromatosis or Li-Fraumeni syndrome.

But these represent only a tiny portion of the more than 20,000 cases of brain tumors diagnosed in the United States each year 

Age is also a risk factor: People who are over age 65 are diagnosed with brain cancers at a rate four times that of people under 65.

What are the symptoms of a brain tumor?

People who are later diagnosed with a brain tumor often have a range of symptoms, many of which may be the result of the location, type and size of the tumor within the brain. Among the common symptoms are:

  • Severe headache, often accompanied by nausea
  • Seizures
  • Change in vision or hearing
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Balance or other motor deficits
  • Cognitive or behavioral changes

What treatments are available for brain tumors?

Treatment depends on the size, type and location of the brain tumor, and is tailored to the individual needs and health of the patient. Treatment may include surgery to remove the tumor, radiation focused only on the tumor or on the entire brain, and chemotherapy delivered orally, intravenously or both. Other types of drugs may be used to target certain types of primary brain tumors. 

Learn more about treatments for brain and central nervous system tumors ›

Our physician researchers are continually working to develop new therapies through clinical trials.

How can I become part of a clinical trial?

The brain tumor team assesses your eligibility for open clinical trials beginning at your first visit. We evaluate this on an ongoing basis.

View our open clinical trials ›

How long is a hospital stay after brain surgery?

The average hospital stay after surgery is two to three days, depending on the type of procedure performed. Other necessary treatments can be performed as an outpatient.

Do you take patients from beyond Southern California?

Our patients come from Orange County as well as throughout California and the rest of the nation. We also have international patients. A team member can provide travel information and assistance.

How do I make an appointment?

Call us at 714-456-8000 for an appointment. Telephone calls are answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A team physician will return your call within 24 hours.

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