The Most Common Type of Brain Tumor

When it comes to brain tumors, it’s challenging to pick a single one that’s most common. That’s because there are three distinct tumor types that occur most often: metastatic, meningiomas, and glioblastoma. Of these brain tumors, only two originate in the brain.

Because there are different types of brain tumors, that also means your treatment options can vary depending on your diagnosis. But, no matter which type of tumor you have, board-certified neurosurgeon Joseph Watson, MD, of Cerebrum MD in Tyson’s Corner, Vienna, Virginia, has an array of tools that can target a problematic tumor.

In this blog, Dr. Watson brings his extensive experience to share details about the most common types of brain tumors and how they can be treated.

Metastatic brain tumors

Metastatic tumors are the most common brain tumors seen in adults. They’re also called secondary tumors, because these types of tumors start somewhere else in the body before migrating to the brain.

About one in four Americans with cancer — about 150,000 people — develop metastatic tumors yearly. For example, up to 40% of people with lung cancer develop metastatic brain tumors yearly. However, when diagnosed and treated early, this type of brain tumor usually responds well to treatment, which can help relieve symptoms and slow tumor growth.

If you have a metastatic brain tumor, your therapy could include medication, surgery, whole-brain radiation, stereotactic radiosurgery, or a combination of these approaches. Immunotherapy and chemotherapy can also provide relief in some cases.

Primary brain tumors

Unlike metastatic tumors, primary brain tumors are far more rare, and it’s even more rare for them to be malignant, or cancerous. In fact, your chances of developing a primary cancerous tumor in your brain are less than 1%. The two most common types of primary tumors are meningiomas and glioblastomas.


Meningiomas don’t really grow in your brain. That means they’re technically not a brain tumor. Instead, these abnormal growths start in the cells of your meninges, which are the membrane-like structures lining your brain and spinal cord. 

Even though meningiomas don’t grow inside your brain tissue, they’re still inside your skull. And, as they grow, they can press against your brain, causing brain tumor symptoms, such as:

Do note that these symptoms can manifest in other types of brain tumors, too, and not just in meningiomas.

Approximately 30% of brain tumors are a meningioma, and most are benign, meaning they won’t spread to other areas of your body. As a result, you can have a meningioma for years without noticing, and they can grow quite large.

If you have a meningioma, Dr. Watson may only recommend brain surgery if it causes symptoms that affect your quality of life.


When you only look at the numbers, glioblastoma comes in third as the most common brain tumor (after meningiomas and metastatic tumors). However, it’s actually the most common tumor originating in brain tissue. Unfortunately, it’s also the deadliest, making up 45% of all malignant brain tumors.

Also known as glioblastoma multiforme (GMB), this tumor starts in brain cells called glial cells. What makes it especially dangerous is its tendency to grow rapidly and spread to different tissues. Since they aren’t a concentrated mass like a meningioma, they can be difficult to treat, and surgery alone is less effective. But a combination of therapies, such as radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery, could help remove as much of the tumor as possible without causing new complications.

Of the 80,000 brain tumors diagnosed each year in the United States, only 1.4% are primary malignant brain tumors.

To learn more about brain tumors and treatments, book an appointment over the phone with Cerebrum MD today.

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