Brain Cancer Care at Kaiser Permanente

There are two main types of brain cancer. Primary brain cancer starts in the brain. Metastatic brain cancer begins elsewhere in the body and spreads to the brain. It also occurs much more often than primary brain cancer. Treatment depends on where the cancer started and its type.

At Kaiser Permanente medical offices, our neurosurgeons, cancer doctors, and other specialists provide coordinated and compassionate care, with treatment based on the latest technology and research.

What Is Brain Cancer?

Primary brain tumors can be benign (not cancer) or can contain cancer cells that often grow rapidly (malignant). The primary brain cancer cells may spread to other areas of the brain but seldom spread to other parts of the body. These tumors are named based on the type of cell or part of the brain in which they begin — "astrocytoma" is the most common type of primary brain cancer.

Doctors can seldom identify why one person develops primary brain cancer and another does not.

Metastatic brain cancer comes from certain cancers that start in other body parts and have spread to the brain. Lung and breast cancer are common cancers that spread to the brain.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms often are similar for benign and cancer tumors in the brain. Symptoms are wide-ranging because the brain controls so many things — our senses, emotions, and physical things we do, from walking to breathing.  

Common brain cancer symptoms (primary and metastasized) are:

  • Headaches, usually worse in the morning
  • Seizures
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Changes in your ability to talk, hear, or see
  • Problems with balance or walking
  • Problems with thinking or memory
  • Muscle jerking or twitching
  • Numbness or tingling in arms or legs

While these symptoms usually aren’t caused by a brain tumor, you should have the problem diagnosed and treated. If you have any of these symptoms, you should see your doctor.

To learn more, see the National Cancer Institute: Brain Cancer.