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Brain tumors are abnormal growths of tissue found inside the skull. There are two categories of brain tumors:
- Primary brain tumor: cancer that originates in the brain.
- Metastatic (secondary) brain tumor: occurs when cancer cells from other parts of the body, such as the lungs, kidneys, breasts and skin, spread to the brain.
Brain tumors are classified as either benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
In most parts of the body, benign tumors are not particularly harmful. This is not necessarily true in the brain. Because the brain is housed within the rigid, bony confines of the skull, any abnormal growth can place pressure on sensitive tissues and impair functions. Also, any tumor located near vital brain structures can seriously threaten health. A benign tumor growing next to an important blood vessel in the brain does not have to grow very large before it can block blood flow. Or, if a benign tumor is found deep inside the brain, surgery to remove it may be very risky because of the chances of damaging vital brain centers. On the other hand, a tumor located near the brain's surface can often be removed surgically.
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