What is Brain Tumor? Its Symptoms, Causes, Treatments & Prevention
A brain tumor or intracranial tumor is an abnormal growth of tissues that multiply uncontrollably. It is immune to the normal checks and stops employed by the body for the multiplication of other cells. There have been more than 150 types of brain tumors have been identified.
Categories of brain tumor
The two main categories of brain tumors are primary and metastatic brain tumors-
Primary Brain Tumors
Metastatic brain Tumors
These arise from the tissues of the brain cells or their surroundings. Primary tumors are categorised as glial or non-glial and benign or malignant.
These spread from other parts of the body to the brain and are considered cancerous or malignant. Those with lung cancer often have tumors metastatised to the brain areas.
Types of Benign Brain Tumors
Types of Malignant Brain Tumors
Glioblastoma multiformae (GBM)
Other Brain Tumors
What are the causes of brain tumor?
The growth and function of normal human cells depend on the DNA content in each of those cells. Brain tumors, akin to other kinds of tumors, are caused by changes in the DNA inside the cell. As you know, DNA is the building block of what is known as genes which control the function of our cells. Some genes help cells grow, divide and I staying alive and are called oncogenes.
Tumor suppressor genes help control the multiplication of genes and make any required repairs. Cancer is caused when there are changes in the DNA that ignite oncogenes and cut off tumor suppressor genes. This can be inherited or more frequently, it can happen anytime during your lifetime.
Symptoms of brain tumor
The symptoms of a brain tumor vary depending on the location of the tumor. The following are the commonly observed symptoms across the spectrum:
- Severe headaches in the morning or wakes you at night.
- Occurrence of seizures or convulsions.
- You can experience difficulty in speaking and thinking.
- Changes in one's personality.
- There is paralysis or weakness in one side of the body.
- Losing balance or fainting sensations.
- Vision changes.
- Changes in hearing.
- Tingling in the face or numbing sensation.
- Difficult swallowing, vomiting feeling.
- General confusion and disorientation of the body.
How are brain tumors diagnosed?
To diagnose brain tumors, various sophisticated imaging techniques are used such as CT (computed tomography) or CAT (computed axial tomography) scan and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan. MRS (magnetic resonance spectroscopy) is used to determine the chemical profile of the tumor and to examine the type of lesions seen on an MRI scan. To help detect recurring tumors, a PET (positron emission tomography) scan is made use of.
What are the complications associated with brain tumors?
- One of the most prominent complications of brain tumor is fatigue. As your body is fighting off a tumor, it takes up a lot of your energy. You may feel totally tired and even sleep doesn't make up for the lack of energy you may experience. It is very common to experience headaches with brain tumors. As the brain tumor grows, it exerts pressure on the blood vessels and sensitive nerves.
- Another complication of brain tumors is nausea or a vomiting sensation which occurs when the brain tumor presses on certain parts of your brain. Treatment methods such as radiation and chemotherapy can also cause nausea.
- When the brain tumor is in the speech and language processing areas of your brain, you may experience difficulty speaking and understanding what others are saying. If the brain tumor is in your visual areas, you may experience blurred vision, double vision and floating spots in your visual field.
How to treat brain tumors?
A diagnosis of the tumor is conducted first to determine various parameters such as the shape, size, volume, location and neurological complexity that ascertain the severity of the various symptoms. This evaluation decides the course of treatment to be followed from a range of options such as surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, radiation therapy and other specifically targeted therapies.
To achieve optimum results, often a combination of these therapies is utilised. There is a higher chance of survival in the case of radiation therapy. It causes fewer side effects to the target organs.
What can be done to prevent brain tumor?
Brain tumors can be prevented by making a lot of basic lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, not taking alcohol, regular exercise and healthy substitutions in your diet. In some cases, brain tumors are hereditary and you need to take extra caution with regular monitoring along with your oncologist.
It is recommended to limit your radiation exposure. There are no other known risk factors for cancer. Pregnant women and children are advised to not undergo imaging tests, unless necessary.
How do people live with a brain tumor?
Unlike popular belief, brain tumors are a rare occurrence in India. It is seen that the cases are low as 1 in 1,00,000 which is about 2% of the total diagnosed cases. Those diagnosed with brain tumors undergo a host of emotional turmoil. Therapy is a useful way to deal with one's emotional life. There are various changes that one needs to make to their diet, exercise and overall physical immunity.
It is important to let your employer or school know of your special needs once you return to resume your normal life. Keep in constant contact with your oncologist for any changes or recurrences of brain tumor that may take place in the future.