The central nervous system is a common site for cancers in both adults and children. Some cancers start in the brain or spinal cord, while others spread to these organs from another site in the body. The most common cancers originating in the central nervous system are gliomas, but many other histologic types occur as well.
The two most effective modalities for treating these cancers are radiation therapy and surgery, though some cancers also respond well to chemotherapy, especially those that occur in children. Surgery is particularly effective in less aggressive tumors, and often is curative without further therapy. However, many areas of the brain cannot be operated on, making definitive surgery impossible, and there are even a few areas that cannot be biopsied. Because of this, radiation therapy is required for virtually every malignant tumor of the central nervous system, and many benign tumors are treated well with radiation because of their location.
The cure rate for primary brain tumors varies dramatically with the histology of the tumor and the site of origin in the brain.