Brain tumors can be cancerous or benign. Benign tumors do not spread to other body parts, but they can cause serious problems if they press on healthy brain tissue. Some can become cancerous.

Brain tumors are lumps of abnormal cells that develop in or around your brain. They can be either benign or malignant.

  • Benign brain tumors are noncancerous, meaning they don’t have the potential to spread to distant body parts.
  • Cancerous tumors, also called malignant tumors, tend to grow faster and can spread to other locations.

Researchers have identified dozens of different types of benign brain tumors. Here, we examine the most common types of benign brain tumors that can develop in adults and children.

More than 100 types of tumors that can develop in your brain or spinal cord have been identified. About half of tumors that develop in these areas are benign.

Roughly 1 in 6,800 people in the United States are diagnosed with a primary brain tumor each year.

TumorApproximate cases per year in general population
meningioma1 in 7,700–55,600
pituitary adenoma1 in 13,500–25,600
schwannoma1 in 19,100–22,700
craniopharyngioma1 in 500,000–2 million
hemangioblastoma1 in 709,200
chordoma1 in 1.2–5.6 million
gangliocytoma0.1–0.5% of brain tumors (1 in 1.4–6.8 million)
glomus jugulare1 in 1.3 million
pineocytomaLess than 1 in 680,000 for all pineal gland tumors
ependymoma1.7% of brain and CNS tumors (1 in 400,000)
pituicytomaUnknown, fewer than 100 cases reported
intracranial germ cell tumor1 in 1.7 million in the United States
chondroma0.2–0.3% of brain tumors (1 in 2.3–3.4 million)
choroid plexus tumors1 in 1.1–1.7 million
dysembryoplastic neuroepithelial tumor 1 in 3.4 million in adults, 1 in 570,000 in children

Mengiomas make up about 10–15% of all brain tumors and are the most common type of benign brain tumor. They originate from the layer of tissue that surrounds your brain and spinal cord called the meninges, usually in middle-aged or older adults.

Symptoms can include changes to your vision or headaches. The cause is usually unknown, but they’ve been linked to radiation exposure, especially in childhood, and the genetic condition neurofibromatosis type 2.

Pituitary adenoma is the second most common brain tumor and commonly affects people in their 30s or 40s. It develops in the anterior pituitary gland and can cause:

  • hormonal problems
  • headaches
  • visual impairment in about half of people on average

Pituitary adenomas are generally highly treatable and often don’t affect lifespan.

Schwannomas are often benign tumors that develop in the cells that protect and support nerve cells. The most common type is called vestibular schwannoma or acoustic neuroma.

Vestibular schwannoma can lead to signs like hearing loss or other hearing changes. They most often develop between ages 30 and 60 years, usually with no obvious cause.

The outlook for people living with these tumors tends to be excellent, but some people may have permanent hearing loss.

Many times, these tumors never cause symptoms.

Craniopharyngiomas are usually benign and develop in your pituitary gland. For most people, receiving hormone replacement therapy after surgery or radiation is included in their treatment plan.

Craniopharyngiomas are most common in children ages 5–14 years.

The outlook when living with craniopharyngiomas tends to be good for children and poor for adults over 65 years old.

Hemangioblastomas start in the cells that line the blood vessels in your brain or spinal cord. They tend to grow slowly but can cause symptoms like fluid buildup in your brain and problems with:

  • walking
  • balance
  • speech
  • coordination

The cause usually isn’t known, but some people have a genetic syndrome called Von Hippel-Lindau disease. People living with these tumors often have an excellent outlook when surgery is the primary treatment.

Chordomas tend to grow slowly without a known cause and usually develop in people in their 40s–60s in the bone at the base of the skull. They can become cancerous if not removed. About half of people live more than 7 years.

Gangliocytomas frequently cause epilepsy in children and are often surgically treatable. They grow in mature nerve cells and tend to grow slowly.

Gangliocytomas most commonly occur in the temporal lobe. Some people develop psychiatric symptoms or memory problems.

Glomus jugulares are usually benign and located in a part of the skull called the jugular foramen. About 80% occur for no known reason. The remaining 20% are linked to hereditary genes passed through families.

They typically cause changes to your hearing but can lead to facial weakness or paralysis if they grow large. Small tumors can often successfully be removed without damage to healthy brain tissue.

Pineocytomas are usually benign and arise from the pineal gland, usually in adults. They tend to be slow growing and may cause poor sleep or problems with melatonin production. As many as 90% of people also have fluid build-up in their brain, which can cause headaches and other symptoms.

Ependymomas can be benign or cancerous. They develop in the lining of the cavities of your brain, most often in children.

Adults have a better chance of survival than children. Ependymomas are often cured with surgical removal, but some people develop permanent complications, such as:

  • fatigue
  • sleep problems
  • numbness and tingling

Pituicytomas are extremely rare and slow-growing benign tumors that develop on your pituitary gland. They are usually removed with surgery. Symptoms can include fluid buildup in your brain or visual changes.

Germ cell tumors can be benign or cancerous. They primarily develop in children or adolescents. They develop in misplaced germ cells that develop into reproductive cells. They can cause many different symptoms, including:

  • headaches
  • mood changes
  • fatigue

Chondromas are benign tumors that develop in cartilage. They occur mostly in the hands or feet but can also develop inside the skull. They tend to cause symptoms similar to meningiomas, such as headaches and vision changes.

Choroid plexus tumors are benign and most common in young adults. They develop in cells that create cerebrospinal fluid and usually develop inside the cavities in your brain called ventricles. They can cause:

DNETs tend to grow slowly. They develop in neurons or supportive cells in your brain called glial cells. Surgery alone is the typical treatment.

  • Glioma: Gliomas are the most common brain and spinal cord tumors. Most cases are cancerous.
  • Osteoma: Osteomas are tumors made of bone. They can cause headaches or sinus infections. They may not require treatment.
  • Giant cell tumor: Giant cell tumors usually develop on the ends of long bones. When they develop in the skull, they usually develop on the sphenoid or temporal bones.
  • Neurofibroma: Neurofibromas normally develop on nerve cells. About half of diagnoses are associated with the genetic syndrome neurofibromatosis type 1.

Although many brain tumors don’t cause obvious symptoms, it’s always a good idea to see a doctor if you develop concerning symptoms, such as:

  • seizures
  • worsening headache
  • changes to your vision

If you’ve previously been diagnosed with a brain tumor, it’s essential to attend all your follow-ups and regularly communicate with your medical team.

Tests and processes that doctors use to diagnose brain tumors include:

Surgery is the most common treatment option for benign brain tumors. Other options include:

The survival rate for people living with benign brain tumors varies significantly between types. Some types rarely cause symptoms.

Some benign brain tumors don’t cause problems and may not require treatment, while others come with a high mortality risk within a few years if they become cancerous. A doctor can give you the best idea of what to expect based on the specific type and features of your tumor.

Here are some frequently asked questions people have about benign brain tumors.

What is the least serious brain tumor?

Slightly more than 95% of people with low grade meningioma go at least 5 years without any tumor progression. The outlook for people living with vestibular schwannoma also tends to be excellent.

How long can you live with a benign brain tumor?

Some types of benign brain tumors grow very slowly and might never cause any problems.

What is the most common benign brain tumor?

Meningiomas are the most common benign brain tumors. They develop in your meninges, or the layers of tissues that cover your brain and spinal cord.

Your doctor can best advise you whether your tumor needs treatment. Surgery is the most common treatment, but chemotherapy or radiation therapy are also commonly used.