Not all brain tumors are cancerous, but it’s important to understand which types may pose a more serious health risk.

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A brain tumor occurs when certain cells in your brain grow and multiply, forming a lump of tissue. Some are malignant (cancerous), while others are benign (noncancerous).

Scientists have identified more than 150 types of brain tumors. Learning about the most common types of brain tumors and the symptoms to be aware of can help you know when to take action to protect your health.

Language matters

In this article, we use “women” and “men” to reflect the terms cited in the referenced studies. While we aim to create content that includes and reflects the diversity of our readers, specificity is key when reporting on research participants and clinical findings.

The statistics referenced in this article did not include data on, or include, participants who were transgender, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, agender, or genderless.

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Many types of brain tumors are benign. However, all brain cancers stem from malignant brain tumors. In rare cases, a brain tumor can start out benign and become malignant.

Even noncancerous brain tumors can become dangerous if they grow and press on your brain.

Gliomas are the most common type of brain tumor in adults. They stem from a type of supportive cell in the brain known as a glial cell.

Not all gliomas are the same. Various types of brain tumors fall into the category of glioma.


Astrocytomas are the most common type of glioma. They develop from a glial cell called an astrocyte, which is a part of your brain’s supportive tissue.

Anyone can develop an astrocytoma, but they’re most common in men ages 20–60.

This type of tumor tends to develop in the largest part of the brain, the cerebrum. However, when these tumors affect younger people and children, they often grow at the base of the brain.

Astrocytomas can be benign or malignant.


When a glioma develops in the ependymal cells, or ependymocytes, it’s known as an ependymoma. This type of tumor typically grows in the cerebellum or the spine.

Ependymomas are rare, responsible for 2–3% of all brain tumors. This type of tumor often develops in childhood.

Ependymomas can be benign or malignant.


Glioblastoma is the most common type of cancerous brain tumor. It is a fast-growing, aggressive tumor that grows in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, located in the cerebrum. A glioblastoma can develop on its own or stem from an astrocytoma.

Glioblastomas affect more men than women, and 64 years is the median age at diagnosis. This type of brain tumor can be life threatening and requires immediate treatment.


Oligodendrogliomas are tumors that develop from oligodendroglial progenitor cells, or oligodendrocytes. These cells make myelin, the protective covering around the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

In adults, oligodendrogliomas often develop in the cerebrum, typically in the frontal or temporal lobe. In children, these tumors are more common in the part of the brain called the thalamus.

Oligodendrogliomas tend to develop slowly. They can be either benign or malignant.


A medulloblastoma is a cancerous tumor that often develops in the cerebellum, the part of your brain toward the back of your skull. These tumors typically occur in children.

Medulloblastomas are fast-growing tumors that can spread to other parts of your central nervous system.

Meningiomas are the most common type of intracranial tumor. They don’t develop from brain tissue. They develop in the meninges, the membrane-like structures surrounding your brain and spinal cord. Still, they’re considered brain tumors.

Meningiomas are twice as common in women as in men. While meningiomas are typically benign, some more aggressive forms may become malignant.

A schwannoma is a tumor that grows from Schwann cells, which protect and support the cells in your nervous system. They typically develop in peripheral nerves. However, these tumors are very rare.

Schwannomas are typically benign tumors. They rarely become malignant.

A craniopharyngioma is a brain tumor that grows near your brain’s hypothalamus. It’s most common in children and young adults.

This slow-growing, benign tumor typically doesn’t spread. However, it can still pose health risks by growing and pressing on nearby areas of your brain.

Other noncancerous tumors may also develop in your brain, including:

A pituitary tumor is a brain tumor that develops in your pituitary gland, which is located at the back of your head, behind your nose. Doctors also call this a pituitary adenoma.

Around 9–12% of all brain tumors are pituitary tumors. These tumors are usually benign.

While they can develop at any age, pituitary tumors are typically diagnosed in older adults. They’re more common in women than in men. They’re also more likely to affect Black and Hispanic people than white people.

Brain tumor warning signs

Early symptoms of a brain tumor may include:

  • headache
  • seizure
  • memory issues
  • changes in personality
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fatigue
  • drowsiness
  • sleep issues
  • changes in physical abilities, such as walking ability
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Some of the most common brain tumor types that affect adults are:

  • glioblastomas
  • astrocytomas
  • pituitary adenomas
  • meningiomas
  • oligodendrogliomas

Treatment for adult brain tumors may include:

However, a variety of factors go into treatment recommendations, such as:

  • tumor size, location, and grade
  • whether the tumor is putting pressure on the brain
  • whether the tumor has spread
  • potential treatment side effects
  • your medical history and preferences

It’s important to work with your doctor to discuss your specific circumstances and develop a treatment plan you’re comfortable with.

Brain tumors are somewhat rare in children but can still occur. Common types of childhood brain tumors include:

  • medulloblastomas
  • ependymomas
  • craniopharyngiomas
  • astrocytomas
  • oligodendrogliomas

The treatment plan for a brain tumor in a child varies depending on the tumor type, grade, and location. Treatment options typically include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

The outlook also varies based on how soon doctors make a diagnosis. The 5-year survival rate for children with brain cancer can be as high as 80%. But the diagnosis requires complex, long-term management.

In 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) released an updated brain tumor grading system. It divides tumors into subgroups based on the genetic makeup of the tumor and the presence or absence of certain changes in its genes.

The WHO grades tumors on a scale of 1–4. The higher the number, the more quickly the tumor is likely to grow and become more aggressive.

Tumor typeWHO grade

There are many types of brain tumors, and some pose more of a health risk than others. The treatment and outlook for a brain tumor varies greatly based on several factors.

Early diagnosis and treatment can help improve your outlook with a brain tumor. Learning about the most common types of brain tumors and being able to spot the symptoms can help you decide when to seek medical care.