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Types of Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors


These tumors begin in brain cells called astrocytes (a type of glial cell), which help keep nerve cells healthy.

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

Astrocytomas are divided into two categories: those with and without isocitrate dehydrogenase (IDH) mutations. IDH mutations are more common and tend to grow more slowly.


These tumors begin in brain glial cells called oligodendrocytes.

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

Oligodendrogliomas with IDH mutations tend to grow more slowly.

Mixed Gliomas

These tumors have both oligodendrocytes and astrocytes—and often start in in the cerebrum. With modern molecular testing (IDH mutations and 1p/19 codeletion), most of these tumors are found to be one type or the other. True oligoastrocytomas are very rare.

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

Ependymal Tumors

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

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

Pineal Parenchymal Tumors

These tumors form in 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 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. Most meningiomas are slow growing grade I tumors. Grade II and III meningiomas are more aggressive.

  • A hemangiopericytoma/solitary fibrous tumor resemble meningiomas but are different biologically and treated like a grade II or III meningioma

Germ Cell

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

  • Pituitary Tumors
  • Craniopharyngioma (grade I)