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Types of Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors

Brain and spinal cord tumors are named according to the type of cell they formed in and where these cells were located the central nervous system. Some tumors contain a mixture of cell types.


These tumors begin in star-shaped brain cells called astrocytes, which help keep nerve cells healthy.

  • Brain Stem Glioma
  • Pineal Astrocytic Tumor
  • Pilocytic Astrocytoma (grade I)
  • Diffuse Astrocytoma (grade II)
  • Anaplastic Astrocytoma (grade III) 
  • Glioblastoma (grade IV)


These tumors begin in brain cells called oligodendrocytes.

  • Oligodendroglioma (grade II)
  • Anaplastic oligodendroglioma (grade III)

Mixed Gliomas

These tumors contain two types of cancer cells—oligodendrocytes and astrocytes—and often start in in the cerebrum.

  • Oligoastrocytoma (grade II)
  • Anaplastic oligoastrocytoma (grade III)

Ependymal Tumors

These tumors usually begin in cells that line the fluid-filled spaces in the brain and around the spinal cord. Ependymal cells are a type of glial cell and are sometimes called a glioma.

  • Ependymoma (grade I or II)
  • Anaplastic ependymoma (grade III)

Pineal Parenchymal Tumors

These tumors form in parenchymal cells or pineocytes, which are the cells that make up most of the pineal gland (the gland that makes melatonin). These tumors are different from pineal astrocytic tumors.

  • Pineocytomas (grade II)
  • Pineoblastomas (grade IV)

Meningeal Tumors

This tumor, also called a meningioma, forms in the meninges (thin layers of tissue that cover the brain and spinal cord). It can form from different types of brain or spinal cord cells.

(A hemangiopericytoma is not a meningeal tumor but is treated like a grade II or III meningioma)

Germ Cell

These impact the cells that develop into sperm in men or ova (eggs) in women. Germ cell tumors usually form in the center of the brain, near the pineal gland, and can spread to other parts of the brain and spinal cord. Germ cell tumors can be either benign or malignant. Types include:

  • Germinomas
  • Teratomas
  • Embryonal yolk sac carcinomas
  • Choriocarcinomas

Sellar Region

This tumor begins in the center of the brain, just above the back of the nose. It can form from different types of brain or spinal cord cells.

  • Craniopharyngioma (grade I)
  • Pituitary Tumors