Brain Tumors

At Houston Methodist Hospital we offer patients world-class, personalized treatment of brain and pituitary tumors. Our approach to healing takes advantage of recent advances in medical science, such as using a variety of new technologies to study each tumor and optimizing treatment for each individual based on the genetic profile of the patient and/or their tumor. We are committed to creating a compassionate environment for our patients. Many of our doctors are active researchers and educators, tackling big issues in brain, spine and pituitary cancers, and training the next generation of specialists in these areas.

In classifying brain tumors, the first distinction is whether the tumor originated in the brain or started in another area of the body and spread to the brain.

Primary brain tumors, such as glioblastomas and anaplastic astrocytomas, are among the types of tumor that originate in the brain.

Secondary, or metastatic, brain tumors originate in other parts of the body and spread to the brain.

Primary Brain Tumors

Primary malignant brain tumors account for two percent of all cancers in adults in the United States; they are classified based on the type of cell from which they arise and their appearance:

A brain tumor may cause a range of symptoms, but some of them may not be immediately obvious:
  • Persistent headaches
  • Seizures
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Neurocognitive symptoms
  • Personality changes 

These symptoms may vary depending on the type, size and location of the tumor.

Brain tumors can be identified with imaging, usually beginning with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and a comprehensive neurosurgical evaluation. Tissue samples may be needed to confirm any diagnosis. Primary brain tumors rarely metastasize (spread) outside the central nervous system.

Primary brain tumors may be treated with surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or a combination of all three. In many instances, the doctors at Houston Methodist will offer novel investigational treatments with a high likelihood of success through multicenter trials (clinical studies conducted at several research institutions/hospitals).

Metastatic Brain Tumors
Metastatic brain tumors (also called secondary brain tumors) are the most common form of brain tumors. They arise from cancer cells that metastasize (travel or spread) to the brain from another part of the body. Breast, lung, skin (melanoma), colon and kidney cancers most often metastasize to the brain. Patterns of metastasis differ among different primary tumor types.

  • When breast or kidney cancer spreads to the brain, it usually causes a single tumor (also referred to as a “lesion” or “focus”).
  • When lung, melanoma or colon cancer spreads to the brain, it often causes multiple tumors (foci). This occurs in about 80 percent of metastatic brain tumors.
  • Metastatic brain tumors are more common in middle-aged and elderly adults than in younger individuals.

In most cases, patients know they have cancer in the primary location and the brain metastasis is often found during a routine computerized tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study. In less than 10 percent of patients, the metastatic brain tumors are diagnosed before the primary cancer and are found as a result of neurological symptoms. When this occurs, further tests are done to determine where the cancer originated.

Often metastatic brain tumors are found before they cause symptoms. In other cases, patients may experience symptoms that prompt investigation:
  • Seizures
  • Headaches
  • Loss of coordination (being unbalanced or weak on one side of the body)
  • Behavioral or cognitive changes

Specific symptoms depend on the location of the tumor in the brain.

U.S. News Badge

Houston Methodist Neurological Institute is ranked #16 in U.S. News and World Report’s 2015 rankings for national hospitals in neurology and neurosurgery, we have reached this level of excellence by combining practiced skills with continuous learning and the cutting-edge research from the Houston Methodist Research Institute. 


Houston Methodist treats all types of brain tumors at our convenient treatment locations across the city.