Brain tumor is a gathering of abnormal cells in the brain. There are various kinds of brain tumors which can be either benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Some kinds of brain tumor may develop in the brain while some may begin in other parts of the body before spreading to the brain. The severity of the tumor depends on its location and its growth rate. These conditions also reflect the effect of the tumor to the function of the nervous system.
Signs and symptoms of brain tumor differ to its condition including size, location and growth rate. People with brain tumor may experience:
- Unusual headaches which may occurs more often and more severe
- Nausea or vomiting
- Difficulty with vision such as double vision, blurred vision or loss of peripheral vision
- Loss of sensation
- Loss of movement in arm or leg
- Balancing problem
- Speech problems
- Confusion of daily task
- Changes in personality or behavior
- Unexperienced seizures
- Difficulties with hearing
When to see the doctor
You are advised to see the doctor if there are any signs or symptoms that concern you or you have experienced any of the symptoms above.
- Primary brain tumors This kind of tumor develops in the brain or in the tissues nearby such as cranial nerves or pineal gland. The tumor is a cause of mutations of DNA that allow the cells to increasingly grow and divide. These abnormal cells continue living while the normal ones would die. The gathering of these abnormal cells results in the development of a tumor. However, primary brain tumors rarely occur in adult patients. Secondary brain tumors or the tumors spread for other parts of the body are more common in adults. Primary brain tumors can be categorized following the names of cells involved. For examples:
- Glimas This type of tumor develops in the brain or spinal cord including astrocytomas, ependymomas, glioblastomas, oligoastrocytomas and oligodendrogliomas.
- Meningiomas magigiomas is a tumor that originates from the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. This type of brain tumor is rarely cancerous.
- Schwannomas or acoustic neuromas This type of tumor arises on the nerves which function in balance controlling and hearing.
- Pituitary adenomas Pituitary adenomas is a kind of a brain tumor developing in the pituitary gland at the base of the brain affecting the pituitary hormones causing the effect throughout the body.
- Medulloblastomas This most common cancerous brain tumor in children begins in the lower back part of the brain and has a tendency to spread through the spinal fluid.
- Germ cells tumors This type of brain tumor may form during childhood in the area of testicles or ovaries. Various parts of the body can be affected by the germ cells including the brain.
- Secondary brain tumors Secondary brain tumors are caused by cancer that spreads from other parts of the body to the brain. This type of the brain tumors often occurs in people who have experienced cancer. The metastatic brain tumor might be a sign of an occurance of cancer from another part of the body.
Types of cancer that are commonly found relating to brain tumor include:
- Breast cancer
- Colon cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Lung cancer
The cause of the brain tumor is still unclear. However, there is a tendency of relationship between the brain tumors and some factors including exposure to radiation and a history of family members with brain tumors.
The doctor may require some tests to diagnose the brain tumors including:
- A neurological exam To seek for clues that may be affected by brain tumors
- Image tests including MRI, CT scan and PET. To create images of the brain, evaluate the tumors and plan for treatment
- Tests to discover cancer in other parts of the body To find cancer in other parts of the body, the doctor may conduct some tests, such as CT scan or PET.
- Biopsy A sample of abnormal tissue might be collected and tested to determine whether the tissue is cancerous or benign.
Treatment for brain tumors differs to the condition of individuals and the tumors including size, location and type. The treatment may include:
In case the tumor is located in the area that is possible to be operated, the doctor may recommend a surgery to remove the brain tumor. The doctor will evaluate the location and size of the tumors to prevent a risk of the surgery. Signs and symptoms of the brain tumor are commonly decreased even by removing a portion of the brain tumor.
- Radiation therapy
Radiation therapy may be chosen to kill tumor cells. There are several types of radiation therapy including external beam radiation by a machine outside the body and brachytherapy, a radiation placed inside the body close to the brain tumor. The doctor will evaluate the condition of the brain tumor to determine the suitable radiation.
Radiosurgery is the use of multiple beams of radiation to kill the tumor cells.
Chemotherapy can be either oral or intravenous medication used to kill tumor cells.
- Targeted drug therapy
Rehabilitation after treatment
Since the brain controls many functions including motor skills, speech, vision and thinking, after the treatment, the doctor may refer the patient to:
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Speech therapy
- Tutoring for school-age children
Preparing for an appointment
Before your appointment, you are advised to be aware of restrictions prior the appointment and you may prepare some information including:
- your experienced symptoms
- your key personal information
- all medications you are taking
- questions that you want to ask the doctor
During the consulting, the doctor may ask some questions including the information such as:
- the beginning of your symptoms
- whether your symptoms are continuous or occasional
- the severity of your symptoms
- whether anything improve or worsen your symptoms