Know the Early Signs and Symptoms of Brain Tumor!

May 14, 2018

Every year since 2000, 8th June is celebrated as World Brain Tumor day. Let's learn more about brain tumor causes, its treatment, and symptoms of brain tumor.

Understanding Brain Tumor

A brain tumor, like any other tumor in the body, occurs when at an abnormal rate to form a mass of abnormal cells. These tumors may be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). The tumors affect the function of normal brain cells by invading them or causing pressure on normal surrounding brain tissue. These tumors grow over a varying period of depending upon whether they are benign or malignant in nature. In India, approximately 40,000-50,000 people, every year are diagnosed with brain tumor. If left untreated, a brain tumor can either destroy tissue or cause problems in other parts of the body because of the pressure the tumor puts on the brain.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Brain Tumor?

The symptoms of brain tumor depend on several factors, including the tumor size, type, location, and extent, as well as age and health history. These symptoms may occur when a tumor harms a part of the brain or when the brain swells due to the buildup of fluid. Also, they may occur when the fluid that flows through and around the brain is blocked by the tumor. Another reason for the occurrence of the signs may be when a tumor presses on a nerve. The most common symptoms of brain tumor include:
  • Headaches (usually worse in the morning)
  • Disorientation
  • Hormonal disorders
  • Fatigue and muscle weakness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Changes in speech, vision, or hearing
  • Anxiety/depression
  • Problems balancing or walking
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty in reading and writing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Changes in mood, personality, or ability to concentrate
  • Problems with memory
  • Muscle jerking or twitching (seizures or convulsions)
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms or legs
  • Difficulty swallowing

Brain Tumor Causes

The specific cause of brain tumor is still to be discovered. However, there are few well-established warning factors that may increase the risk of developing it. For instance:
  • Age - The risk for brain tumor usually increases with age. People over the age of 60 are at a higher risk of contracting brain tumor.
  • Gender - In comparison to females, males are more prone to brain tumors.
  • Exposure to ionizing radiation - Patients who have been treated for cancers such as leukemia using Ionizing radiation therapy are also at risk of brain tumor.
  • Race - As per research, people of a specific race and ethnicity are more prone to developing a brain tumor.
Moreover, genetic conditions such as neurofibromatosis and Li-Fraumeni syndrome also increase the risk of developing a brain tumor.

How Is Brain Tumor Diagnosed?

Diagnosis of a brain tumor commences with a physical exam and a look at the medical history of the patient. Following which the doctor orders a neurologic exam to check the brain function. This exam tests vision, reflexes, muscle strength, coordination, balance, alertness, and other functions. However, if the results are abnormal, the doctor advises further tests including:
  • Imaging test - This test uses x-rays or radioactive substances to create pictures of the brain. The test results will show a brain tumor, in almost all cases.
  • MRI scan - It is one of the best tests available for diagnosing tumors. The images they provide are usually more detailed.
  • CT scan - A CT scan uses x-rays to make thorough cross-sectional images of the brain. This scan is usually suggested when MRI is not an option. For instance, people who are overweight or who have are afraid of enclosed spaces.
  • PET scan - PET scan uses a special camera to create a picture of areas of radioactivity in the body. This test is likely to be helpful for fast-growing tumors than for slower-growing tumors.
Other than this, if a doctor suspects a brain tumor, they may order a biopsy. In a biopsy, a small piece of the tumor is cut for tests. Biopsy results help in identifying if the tumor cells are benign or malignant. It also helps in determining the exact origin or location of the tumor.

Brain Tumor Treatment

Patients with brain tumors have several treatment options. The options include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Many patients get a combination of treatments. The option of treatment depends mainly on the following:
  • the type of brain tumor
  • its location in the brain
  • its size
  • age and health history of the patient
Before treatment begins, talk with the health care team about the success rate of the specific treatment plan and palliative care options. Furthermore, the brain tumor treatment includes:

Surgery

Surgery is the initial treatment for benign (non-cancerous) brain tumors. These types of tumors can be treated without causing severe damage. However, most malignant (cancerous) tumors require treatment in addition to the surgery, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy. The surgical process results in improving neurological symptoms. It also helps make other brain tumor treatments more effective and improve the prognosis of the patient.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is typically the option after surgery and possibly along with chemotherapy. It is usually helpful in the treatment of primary brain cancers, which are also called brain tumors. In radiation therapy procedure, the high-energy x-rays or other particles destroy tumor cells. Surgeons may use this treatment to slow or stop the growth of the tumor.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses cytotoxic (anti-cancer) drugs to destroy cancer cells. The drugs circulate throughout the body in the bloodstream to stop the growth and division of cancer cells. The purpose of chemotherapy is to destroy tumor cells remaining after surgery and reduce the symptoms of brain tumor. Doctors may suggest chemotherapy alone or in combination with other brain tumor treatments, such as surgery or radiation therapy.

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapy for brain tumor works to target particular pathways or irregularities in brain tumor cells involved in tumor growth. This treatment is mainly an option for patients who have a tumor recurrence after previous brain cancer treatments. Targeted therapy blocks the growth and spread of tumor cells while limiting the damage to healthy cells. Consult a doctor immediately if the symptoms of brain tumor show. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent complications that can occur as a tumor grows and puts pressure on the skull and brain tissue.

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