Jasminka M. Vukanovic-Criley, MD, FACP, FHM

June 8th has been designated World Brain Tumor Day. It started in 2000 as an international commemorative day for all patients with brain tumors and for their families. Its mission is to raise awareness and educate the public about brain tumors.

Tumors, or neoplasms, are uncontrolled growth of cells. Brain tumors refer to uncontrolled growth of brain cells (or envelope cells that surround brain). Research and treatment of brain tumors require lots of resources. Designating June 8th as a Brain Tumor Awareness Day, also had a goal to help improve funding for research and treatment of brain tumors.

Brain tumors are heterogeneous group of diseases. They can be divided into primary and secondary brain tumors.

Primary brain tumors are tumors whose uncontrolled growth started in the brain (or in the envelopes around the brain). These tumors can be benign or malignant (cancerous). Benign tumors grow and can make problems due to their location. However, in general, given their tumor biology, they lack the ability to invade neighboring tissue or migrate to other sites in the body. Malignant tumors, on the other hand, have this ability to invade or migrate, and are dangerous. Since they can invade local areas and can spread to other sites, many therapies (including surgery) can be impractical or less effective.

Secondary brain tumors are tumors that migrated into brain from other organs. An organ where tumors originated is called primary host of those primary tumors. Cells that migrated from primary organs (primary tumors) to brain are also called secondary tumors or metastases. Metastases are very difficult to treat and most of the time have ominous prognosis. As a result, there is lots of effort focused on treating cancers but also on preventing cancers from spreading.

In my prior academic research career, I studied some of the mechanisms of both preventing cancer growth as well as suppressing tumors from metastasizing (Ref 1, 2).

In the brain however, unlike in other organs, even benign tumors can be dangerous. There is a limited space within our skull. As a result, as a tumor grows, it displaces normal brain tissue. Consequently, it can compress different areas of the brain, and affect neurological function.

History of Brain Tumor Awareness Day

World Brain Tumor Day was organized in 2000 by the German Brain Tumor Association (Deutsche Hirntumorhilfe eingetragener Verein). The organization was founded in 1998 with the goal of supporting research to improve the care of brain tumor patients. Their moto is Knowledge creates the future.  The motto in German language is: “Wissen schafft Zukunft. To German ears, it sounds very much like the two words, “science future.” Future science is indeed what this society seeks for patients. That organization is based in Leipzig, Germany.

Statistics for Brain Tumors

It is estimated that, in the United States, about 1 million people are living with a primary brain tumor (3). In 2023, about 94,390 Americans will receive a primary brain tumor diagnosis. Relative survival rate for all patients with a malignant brain tumor is about 35.7%. In 2023, around 18,990 Americans will die from a malignant brain tumor (3).

Quick Facts about Brain Tumors (3, 4):

<em>5 Year Survival Rates of Patients with Brain Tumors by Age and Tumor Type<em>

Quick Facts for Pediatric Population (6):

Symptoms of Brain Tumor

There are a myriad of possible symptoms, depending on location of the brain tumor.  Some of the common symptoms are:

  1. Severe persistent headache
    1. Headache is a very general symptom, that has a broad differential, but it may be a sign of a brain tumor. These headaches can be acute, or chronic and persistent. These headaches in general are worse early in the morning.
  2. Vomiting or nausea
    1. Caused by pressure from the tumor. It is usually accompanied by headache as well.
  3. Seizures
    1. Around 50% of patients with brain tumor may experience seizures.
    1. Likelihood of seizure depends on tumor’s location.
  4. Behavioral changes
    1. These may include emotional outbursts or minor memory loss.
  5. Blurry vision
  6. Impaired hearing
    1. One-sided hearing loss or ringing in the ears.
  7. Difficulty speaking including:
    1. Difficulty forming clear words, or saying things that make very little sense
    1. Inability to understand what others are saying
  8. Altered balance
  9. Difficulty walking
  10. Impaired sensation of touch

Hand Washing and Brain Tumors

Proper hand washing is critically important for all individuals, but it holds particular significance for patients with cancers. Patients with brain tumors have compromised immune systems and are susceptible to infections. Proper handwashing minimizes the risk of infections, post-surgical or post-chemotherapy complications, and promotes better health outcomes and quality of life.

Handwashing not only protects the individual patient but also contributes to the overall health of the community. Patients with brain tumors may interact with healthcare professionals, family members, and friends regularly. Ensuring that everyone practices proper hand hygiene helps keeping patients safe. Proper hand washing also prevents the spread of infections within the community.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not provide medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.


  1. Jasminka Vukanovic; John T. Isaacs Linomide Inhibits Angiogenesis, Growth, Metastasis, and Macrophage Infiltration within Rat Prostatic Cancers. Cancer Research Vol 55 #7. April 1 1995. https://aacrjournals.org/cancerres/article/55/7/1499/502156/Linomide-Inhibits-Angiogenesis-Growth-Metastasis
  2. Jin Tang Dong, Pattie W. Lamb, Carrie W. Rinker-Schaeffer, Jasminka Vukanovic, Tomohiko Ichikawa, John T. Isaacs, J. Carl Barrett  Kal1, a metastasis suppressor gene for prostate cancer on human chromosome 11p11.2 SCIENCE VOL. 268, NO. 5212 DOI: 10.1126/science.7754374
  3. Brain Tumor Facts. National Brain Tumor Society https://braintumor.org/brain-tumors/about-brain-tumors/brain-tumor-facts/ Last accessed June 8th 2024.
  4. Key Statistics for Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/types/brain-spinal-cord-tumors-adults/about/key-statistics.html
  5. How to Pay For Cancer Treatment Costs: How Viatical Settlements Offer Financial Relief. American Life Fund. Cancer Financial Assistance. https://www.americanlifefund.com/cancer/pay/
  6. American Brain Tumor Association. Pediatric Brain Tumors 101. Pediatric Brain Tumors 101 – American Brain Tumor Association (abta.org)
  7. James Knight; Orlando De Jesus. Pilocytic Astrocytoma https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK560614/

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