Brain Tumor: Facts Explained

Login to Health August 1, 2017 Brain Diseases 755 Views

The brain has been compared to a lot of things over the years like; a well oiled machine, a factory, a busy workstation and so on.  These multiple metaphors exist for the sole reason that the brain is, indeed, one of the most complex structures in the human body. The brain heads our body (quite literally!), by commanding and deciding each function that our body performs, be it life sustaining activities like breathing, motor functions like walking, sensory functions like hearing and sight or even cognitive functions like thinking and memory. What were to happen if brain function was thwarted by an illness or disease?

Of the many diseases that could possibly degenerate brain function, brain tumors continue to be one of the most dangerous and complex, and it therefore becomes necessary for us to garner some knowledge and understand a few facts about the same. To begin with, let us answer the most primary question:

What are brain tumors?

Brain tumors are a result of the abnormal multiplication of cells in the brain. Brain tumors are of two types: primary brain tumors and secondary brain tumors. Primary brain tumors are those that occur or begin in the brain itself. These tumors can either be malignant (cancerous) or benign (non- cancerous). Secondary brain tumors, also known as metastatic brain tumors, are those that occur or begin elsewhere in the body but metastasize to the brain.

Benign tumors are non cancerous and usually slow growing, and do not affect nearby brain tissue. It may be long before they cause any symptoms and therefore may not be found until they become large. Even though they are not malignant, their presence can cause severe neurological symptoms, especially when they grow in size. However, if removed completely, they may not reoccur at all. Malignant tumors on the other hand, are rapidly progressing fast growing tumors, and are therefore more life-threatening. They have a tendency to spread to nearby brain tissue from their point of origin. If left untreated, these tumors would metastasize and cause serious brain damage. Unlike benign tumors, these do have a chance of recurring even if the entire tumor is treated or removed.

It has been established that brain tumors can be dangerous and the earlier their presence is found the better it is. But how do we determine if we may be at a risk of having brain tumor?

What are the different signs and symptoms that occur as a result of a brain tumor?

Brain tumor may present with symptoms that are inconclusive and ambiguous, that is, symptoms may be general that could also be stemming from another illness. However, a few symptoms that could determine the presence of a tumor are persistent headaches, seizures, effects on memory and thinking processes, changes in personality and emotional instability, decreased sensory abilities like poor speech sight and hearing, aphasia, poor balance and muscle movement, muscles spasms and twitching, vomiting, fatigue nausea and so on.

How is brain tumor diagnosed?

When symptoms are suggestive of a brain tumor, a team comprising, among others, a neurologist and neurosurgeon would take a complete medical history and conduct a neurological exam which consists of testing and evaluating functions of the nervous system. A tumor can be diagnosed using different tests such as CT scans, MRI and MRS scans, PET scan and a lumbar puncture or spinal tap. It can also be diagnosed using surgical diagnostic procedures like craniotomy and biopsy which involves obtaining a piece of the tumor tissue which would then be diagnosed to determine whether it is cancerous, and if yes, what type and grade of cancer it is. If the tumor is not completely removed during the surgical procedure, chemotherapy, radiation and further surgery will be needed as a part of the treatment depending upon the type, location, advancement and other specifics of the tumor.

The treatment may help in getting rid of the tumor and consequently the cancer completely. In case of more advanced tumors, the cancer may return. If the tumor cannot be completely removed, the treatment can help in adding a few more years to the life of the patient and may also ease the pain by making the symptoms less apparent and thereby making it more comfortable for the patient.

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