What is a Brain Tumor?
A brain tumor is a mass or growth of abnormal cells in your brain.
Many different types of brain tumors exist. Some brain tumors are noncancerous (benign), and some brain tumors are cancerous (malignant). Brain tumors can begin in your brain (primary brain tumors), or cancer can begin in other parts of your body and spread to your brain (secondary, or metastatic brain tumors). Brain tumor treatment options depend on the type of brain tumor you have, as well its size and location.
The signs and symptoms of a brain tumor vary greatly and depend on the brain tumors size, location and rate of growth.
General signs and symptoms caused by brain tumors may include:
1)New onset or change in pattern of headaches
2)Headaches that gradually become more frequent and more severe
3)Unexplained nausea or vomiting
4)Vision problems, such as blurred vision, double vision or loss of peripheral vision
5)Gradual loss of sensation or movement in an arm or a leg
6)Difficulty with balance
8)Confusion in everyday matters
9)Personality or behavior changes
10)Seizures, especially in someone who does not have a history of seizures
Brain tumors that begin in the brain
Primary brain tumors originate in the brain itself or in tissues close to it, such as in the brain-covering membranes (meninges), cranial nerves, pituitary gland or pineal gland. Primary brain tumors begin when normal cells acquire errors (mutations) in their DNA. These mutations allow cells to grow and divide at increased rates and to continue living when healthy cells would die. The result is a mass of abnormal cells, which forms a tumor.
Primary brain tumors are much less common than are secondary brain tumors, in which cancer begins elsewhere and spreads to the brain. Many different types of primary brain tumors exist. Each gets its name from the type of cells involved.
1)Acoustic neuroma (schwannoma)
2)Astrocytoma, also known as glioma, which includes anaplastic astrocytoma and glioblastoma
5)Germ cell tumor
Cancer that begins elsewhere and spreads to the brain
Secondary (metastatic) brain tumors are tumors that result from cancer that starts elsewhere in your body and then spreads (metastasizes) to your brain. Secondary brain tumors most often occur in people who have a history of cancer. But in rare cases, a metastatic brain tumor may be the first sign of cancer that began elsewhere in your body.
Secondary brain tumors are far more common than are primary brain tumors. Any cancer can spread to the brain, but the most common types include:
Western Medicine Treatment
Treatment for a brain tumor depends on the type, size and location of the tumor, as well as your overall health and your preferences. Your doctor can tailor treatment to fit your particular situation.
If the brain tumor is located in a place that makes it accessible for an operation, your surgeon will work to remove as much of your brain tumor as possible. In some cases, tumors are small and easy to separate from surrounding brain tissue, which makes complete surgical removal possible. In other cases, tumors cannot be separated from surrounding tissue or they are located near sensitive areas in your brain, making surgery risky. In these situations your doctor may try to remove as much of the tumor as is safe. Even removing a portion of the brain tumor may help reduce signs and symptoms you experience. In some cases only a small biopsy is taken to confirm the diagnosis.
Surgery to remove a brain tumor carries risks, such as infection and bleeding. Other risks may depend on the part of your brain where your tumor is located. For instance, surgery on a tumor near nerves that connect to your eyes may carry a risk of vision loss.
Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses beams of high-energy particles, such as X-rays, to kill tumor cells. Radiation therapy can come from a machine outside your body (external beam radiation), or, in very rare cases, radiation can be placed inside your body close to your brain tumor (brachytherapy).
External beam radiation can focus just on the area of your brain where the tumor is located, or it can be applied to your entire brain (whole brain radiation). Whole brain radiation is sometimes used after surgery to kill tumor cells that might have been left behind.
Side effects of radiation therapy depend on the type and dose of radiation you receive. In general it can cause fatigue, headaches and scalp irritation.
Stereotactic radiosurgery is not a form of surgery in the traditional sense. Instead, radiosurgery uses multiple beams of radiation to give a highly focused form of radiation treatment to kill the tumor cells in a very small area. Each beam of radiation is not particularly powerful, but the point where all the beams meet -- at the brain tumor -- receives a very large dose of radiation to kill the tumor cells.
Radiosurgery is typically done in one treatment, and in most cases you can go home the same day. Side effects may include fatigue, headache and nausea.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill tumor cells. Chemotherapy drugs can be taken orally in pill form or injected into a vein (intravenously). Another type of chemotherapy can be placed during surgery. When removing all or part of the brain tumor, your surgeon may place one or more disk-shaped wafers in the space left by the tumor. These wafers slowly release a chemotherapy drug over the next several days. Chemotherapy side effects depend on the type and dose of drugs you receive. Systemic chemotherapy can cause nausea, vomiting and hair loss.
Targeted drug therapy
Targeted drug treatments focus on specific abnormalities present within cancer cells. By blocking these abnormalities, targeted drug treatments can cause cancer cells to die. Many targeted drug therapies are very new and still undergoing careful study in clinical trials. One targeted drug therapy used to treat brain tumors is bevacizumab (Avastin). This drug, given through a vein (intravenously), stops the formation of new blood vessels, cutting off blood supply to a tumor and killing the tumor cells.
Rehabilitation after treatment
Because brain tumors can develop in parts of the brain that control motor skills, speech, vision and thinking, rehabilitation may be a necessary part of recovery. Your doctor may refer you to services that can help, such as:
1)Physical therapy can help you regain lost motor skills or muscle strength.
2)Occupational therapy can help you get back to your normal daily activities, including work, after a brain tumor or other illness.
3)Speech therapy with specialists in speech difficulties (speech pathologists) can help if you have difficulty speaking.
4)Tutoring for school-age children can help kids cope with changes in their memory and thinking after a brain tumor.
Adopted From Mayo Clinic