The treatment of brain tumors has dramatically changed over the past few decades. Although many benign tumors can be treated with surgery alone, it is all too frequent that we encounter malignant tumors that cannot be cured with surgery alone. This is one of the greatest challenges in all of medicine.
The initial goal is to properly diagnose the tumor before surgery is even contemplated. Recent advances in the field of MRI have made this possible in a way that was never thought possible before. Today, MRI technology allows a physician to view details of the structure and function of the surrounding brain. This further facilitates the physician’s visualization of the wiring of the brain (white matter), including the individual tracts. In addition, functional MRI helps physicians localize speech and other functions. These advances help physicians plan safer surgery plans.
With advanced technologies such as image guidance, a GPS-like system, surgeons can pinpoint the patient’s abnormality. While in surgery to remove a tumor, thanks to these advanced technologies, today’s surgeons can even set up MRI images so they appear in the eye piece of an advanced microscope — an incredible surgical aid.
Once the tumor has been removed, a pathologist can use recent advances in genetic and molecular medicine to determine how that tumor may behave relevant to certain chemotherapy agents and even radiation treatments. This advancement allows physicians to personalize the patient’s treatment. In addition, current studies are being conducted to evaluate the potential use of tumor vaccines and other types of immunotherapy for a particularly aggressive type of tumor called a glioblastoma.
New research, studies and advances in technology will help to decrease the prevalence of brain tumors as well as the surgical success rate.
Statistics from the American Brain Tumor Association:
By the Numbers: Critical Brain Tumor Statistics
- Nearly 80,000 new cases of primary brain tumors are expected to be diagnosed this year. Approximately one-third or 32% of brain and CNS tumors are malignant.
- This includes more than 26,000 primary malignant and 53,000 non-malignant brain tumors.
- There are nearly 700,000 people in the U.S. living with a primary brain and central nervous system tumor.
- This year, nearly 17,000 people will lose their battle with a primary malignant and central nervous system brain tumor.
- Survival after diagnosis with a primary brain tumor varies significantly by age, histology, molecular markers and tumor behavior.
- There are more than 100 histologically distinct types of primary brain and central nervous system tumors.
Brain Tumor Statistics by Age
- The median age at diagnosis for all primary brain tumors is 59 years.
- Brain tumors are the most common cancer occurring among those age 0-14, and the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in children (males and females) age 0-14, according to a 2016 report that places brain tumors in children above leukemia for both statistics.
- It is estimated that more than 4,800 children and adolescents between the ages of 0-19 will be diagnosed with a primary brain tumor this year.
- Brain and CNS tumors are the third most common cancer occurring among adolescents and young adults (ages 15-39) and the third most common cause of cancer death in this age group.
- Meningioma represents 36.6% of all primary brain tumors, making them the most common primary brain tumor. There will be an estimated 27,110 new cases in 2017.
- Gliomas, a broad term which includes all tumors arising from the gluey or supportive tissue of the brain, represent 24.7% of all primary brain tumors and 74.6% of all malignant tumors.
- Glioblastoma represent 14.9% of all primary brain tumors, and 55.4% of all gliomas. Glioblastoma has the highest number of cases of all malignant tumors, with an estimated 12,390 new cases predicted in 2017.
- Astrocytomas, including glioblastoma, represent approximately 75% of all gliomas.
- Nerve sheath tumors (such as acoustic neuromas) represent about 8.2% of all primary brain tumors.
- Pituitary tumors represent nearly 16% of all primary brain tumors and rarely become malignant. There will be an estimated 14,230 new cases of pituitary tumors in 2017.
- Lymphomas represent 2% of all primary brain tumors.
- Oligodendrogliomas represent nearly 2% of all primary brain tumors.
- Medulloblastoma/embryonal/primitive tumors represent 1% of all primary brain tumors.
- The most common site for primary brain and CNS tumors (37%) is within the meninges.