Brain Cancer is a type of cancer characterized by abnormal and uncontrollable growths of cells in the brain. The growths are called brain tumors but not all these tumors are cancerous. Some are benign and the benign tumors won’t spread to other parts of the body or destroy normal tissue. Those that are cancerous, otherwise called malignant tumors, can spread aggressively and invade the healthy cells.
Types of Cancerous Brain Tumors
The primary brain cancer refer to malignant tumors that develop in the brain.
Common types are:
- pituitary adenomas
- vestibular schwannomas
- primitive neuroectodermal tumors (medulloblastomas)
Most of these tumors are named after the brain cell or brain part where they originate. Metastatic brain cancer is the name for the cancer in the brain that originate from other parts of the body. This happens when the cancer cells from other parts of the body spread to the brain.
Causes of Brain Cancer
The exact cause of brain cancer is not known. Experts claim that following may contribute to this form of cancer:
- HIV infection
- cigarette smoking
- environmental toxins
- radiation to the head
Symptoms of Brain Cancer
Some brain tumors do not cause any symptoms. In fact some tumors such as those of the pituitary gland are found only after death.
When there are symptoms, these would usually include:
- difficulty walking
Other symptoms are:
- speech difficulty
- vision abnormalities
- altered mental status
- nausea and vomiting especially in the morning
- changes in emotional or intellectual capacity
In some people, the symptoms are so gradual, they are easily missed. In other cases, symptoms appear too rapidly that the affected person feel like he/she is having a stroke.
Diagnosis of Brain Cancer
- Medical interview and physical exam may indicate if there is a problem in the brain or brain stem.
- A CT scan of the brain is also likely to be done.
- Some doctors also inject harmless dye into your bloodstream to detect any abnormalities in the scan.
- Sometimes, MRI is preferred for its higher sensitivity in detecting tumors.
- Routine lab tests such as analysis of blood, liver function tests, and blood coagulation profile may also be performed.
- To confirm the diagnosis of cancer, a sample of mass is taken to identify the tumor. This process is called biopsy.
Treatment of Brain Cancer
Treatment for this particular form of cancer in the brain is very complex. Most treatment plans are done after consulting several oncologists, radiation oncologists, neurosurgeons, and the primary health care provider. Treatment depends on the location, size, and type of tumor, your age, and your medical condition.
The most widely used forms of treatment are:
Most people who have brain cancer require a brain surgery.
- radiation therapy
This is a new knife-less technique that can destroy the brain tumor without having to open the skull. In this technique, high-energy radiation beams destroy the tumors.