What You Need to Know about Brain Tumors This thorough article for consumers describes the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of brain tumors. Introduction Each year more than 17, 000 people in the United States find out they have a brain tumor. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has written this booklet to help patients and their families and friends better understand brain tumors. We also hope others will read it to learn more about these tumors. This booklet describes the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of brain tumors.

We know that booklets cannot answer every question about brain tumors. They cannot take the place of talks with doctors, nurses, and other members of the health care team, but we hope our information will help with these talks. Definitions of words that may be new to readers and other terms related to cancer can be found in the Glossary. For some words, a 'sounds-like's pelling is also given.

Our knowledge about brain tumors keeps increasing. For up-to-date information or to order this publication, call the NCI-supported Cancer Information Service (CIS) toll free at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237). The Brain Together, the brain and spinal cord form the central nervous system. This complex system is part of everything we do.

It controls the things we choose to do -- like walk and talk -- and the things our body does automatically -- like breathe and digest food. The central nervous system is also involved with our senses -- seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling -- as well as our emotions, thoughts, and memory. The brain is a soft, spongy mass of nerve cells and supportive tissue. It has three major parts: the cerebrum, the cerebellum, and the brain stem. The parts work together, but each has special functions. The cerebrum, the largest part of the brain, fills most of the upper skull.

It has two halves called the left and right cerebral hemispheres. The cerebrum uses information from our senses to tell us what is going on around us and tells our body how to respond. The right hemisphere controls the muscles on the left side of the body, and the left hemisphere controls the muscles on the right side of the body. This part of the brain also controls speech and emotions as well as reading, thinking, and learning.

The cerebellum, under the cerebrum at the back of the brain, controls balance and complex actions like walking and talking. The brain stem connects the brain with the spinal cord. It controls hunger and thirst and some of the most basic body functions, such as body temperature, blood pressure, and breathing.