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An intracranial tumour is a mass of abnormal cells growing inside the skull. Intracranial tumours are classified according to the cells from which they originate, like thus:

Tumours of neuro-epithelial origin

Tumours of nerve sheath origin

Meningeal tumours

Tumours of mesenchymal origin

Primary cerebral lymphoma

Tumours of germ cell origin

Pituitary tumours


Cerebral metastasis

Local extension of head and neck tumours

Cerebral metastases probably form the most common type of intracranial tumour. When these are found, its often worth looking for the primary tumour. The most common tumours known to spread to the brain are, in order, from primary sites in the lung, breast, kidney, gastrointestinal tract and skin.

Diagnosis of an intracranial tumour starts with an appropriate clinical history. This should lead the doctor to look for the relevant neurological signs. With these in mind, a brain CT scan or brain MRI scan should be done to visualize the offending mass.

Biopsy may often be necessary to determine the exact type of tumour under microscopy by a trained pathologist. This is often done together with excision of the mass.

This depends on the presentation, the severity of the symptoms and how acute the problems are.

Treatment can be given acutely for symptoms including headache, nausea and vomiting. Ultimately, however, the only treatment is some combination of surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy. ... or palliative care.

Prognosis will depend very much on the nature of the initial tumour, the success of the treatment and other factors in the patient's life.

Information partly from Medicine International, Number 00(4), 2000.

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