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A benign, or noncancerous, brain tumor is a mass of abnormal cells that forms in the brain. Most benign brain tumors tend to grow slowly and remain in one place. However, because the space within the skull is fully enclosed and very limited, any tumor that grows within it—malignant or benign—can potentially press on sensitive brain tissues and disrupt critical functions.

How are benign brain tumors treated?

If a benign brain tumor is relatively small and not causing any disruptive symptoms or posing an immediate threat, surgery may be unnecessary (at least initially). Instead, a neurologist may suggest an active monitoring approach, which involves regularly taking computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to check the tumor and confirm that it is stable. This process can potentially continue for many years if the patient does not develop any new or worsening symptoms.

On the other hand, benign brain tumors that are putting pressure on critical areas of the brain, such as those that control speech, vision or motor function, should be fully or partially removed with surgery, if possible. If a benign tumor is located in a part of the brain that is surgically inaccessible, it may be treated with high-dose, "pinpoint" radiation therapy.

Even after being successfully treated, benign brain tumors must be continually followed to check for signs of recurrence. Also, while rare, benign brain tumors sometimes progress and become malignant.

Medically reviewed by Arnold Etame MD, PHD, neurological surgeon

If you have questions about benign brain tumors, you are welcome to talk with a specialist in the Neuro-Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center. To request an appointment, please call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form online. Virtual visit appointments are also available.