What is a brain tumour?
A tumour, in general, is a collection of abnormal cells in your any part of the body. Brain tumours are located inside the skull. The skull encloses the brain, which is very rigid! Any abnormal growth inside this restricted space can cause problems. Brain tumours can be cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign). When benign or malignant tumours grow, they increase the pressure inside your skull. This additional pressure can cause brain damage and can be life-threatening.
Brain tumours are categorized as primary or secondary. A primary brain tumour originates in your brain. Many primary brain tumours are benign. Metastatic brain tumour, also known as a secondary brain tumour occurs when the cancer cells spread to the brain from a different organ of the body.
Types of brain tumours
Primary brain tumours originate in your brain. They can develop from your:
• brain cells
• membranes surrounding your brain, which is called meninges
• nerve cells
Primary tumours can either be benign or cancerous. Gliomas and meningiomas are common types of brain tumours in adults.
Gliomas are tumours that develop from glial cells. These cells normally:
• provide nutrition to your central nervous system
• supports the structure of the central nervous system
• break down dead neurons
• clean cellular waste
Gliomas tumours can develop from different types of glial cells.
Other primary brain tumours
Other primary brain tumours include:
• Pituitary tumours, which are usually benign
• Pineal gland tumours, which can be benign or malignant
• Ependymomas are generally benign
• Craniopharyngiomas occur mostly in children and could be benign, but these can change clinical symptoms like in vision or premature puberty
• Primary central nervous system (CNS) lymphomas that are malignant
• Primary germ cell tumours of the brain can be benign or malignant
• Meningiomas originate in the meninges
• Schwannomas arise in cells that produce the protective cover of your nerves (myelin sheath) called Schwann cells
Risk factors for brain tumours
About 5 to 10 per cent of all cancers are genetically inherited, or hereditary. It’s rare for a brain tumour to be inherited genetically. Seek a specialist doctor if several people in your family have been diagnosed with a brain tumour. Your doctor might recommend a genetic counsellor in that case.
With age, the risk toward most types of brain tumours increases as well.
Brain tumours, in general, are the most common in Caucasians. However, African-Americans are also more likely to find meningiomas.
Being exposed to certain chemicals, even those that you find at your work environment can increase the risk for brain cancer.
Exposure to radiation
People exposed to ionizing radiation have an increased risk of brain tumours. Ionizing radiation can occur through high-radiation cancer therapies. Radiation from nuclear fallout has similar effects. In the past, the nuclear power plant incidents in Fukushima and Chernobyl gives testament to how people can be exposed to ionizing radiation.
What are the symptoms of a brain tumour?
Symptoms of brain tumours depend on the location and size of the tumour. Some tumours cause direct damage by invading brain tissue, and some tumours cause pressure on the surrounding brain. You’ll have noticeable symptoms when a growing tumour creates pressure on the brain tissue.
Headache is the tell-tale sign of a brain tumour. You may experience headaches that:
• occur while you’re sleeping
• are worse in the morning after waking up
• are worse while coughing, sneezing, or exercising
You may also experience:
• Blurred vision or double vision
• Weakness in a part of the face or limb
• Seizures (especially in adults)
• A change in mental functioning
Symptoms of pituitary tumours
The following symptoms can occur with pituitary tumours:
• Nipple discharge, or galactorrhea
• Development of breast tissue in men
• Lack of menstruation in women
• Enlargement of the hands and feet
• increased amounts of body hair, or hirsutism
• Sensitivity to heat or cold
• Low blood pressure
• Blurry vision or tunnel vision
How are brain tumours diagnosed?
The diagnosis starts with a physical exam and a look at your medical history. They conclude the following,
• muscle strength
• logical ability
The doctor may order more tests after they finish the physical exam.
These could include:
CT scan of the head
MRI of the head
Treatment of brain tumours
The treatment of a brain tumour depends on:
• the type of tumour
• the size of the tumour
• the location of the tumour
• your general health
The most common treatment for malignant brain tumours is surgery. The primary goal is to remove as many cancer cells as possible without causing damage or complications to the healthy parts of the brain. Sometimes, the location of some tumours allows for easy and safe removal. Other tumours may be located in an area that limits how much of the tumour can be removed. It is seen that even the partial removal of brain cancer cells can be beneficial.
The risks associated with brain surgery include infection and bleeding. Clinically dangerous benign tumours are also surgically removed. Metastatic brain tumours are treated according to the cancer present in the body. If surgery is suggested, it is most likely to be combined with other treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation therapy. After neurosurgery, physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy help you to recover.