What are brain tumors?
Brain tumors are a collection or mass of abnormal cells in your brain. Your skull is very firm around your brain. Any growth within such a small space can cause problems. These can be cancerous (malignant) or non-cancerous (benign). When benign or malignant tumors grow, they can cause increased pressure inside your skull. It damages the brain and can be life-threatening.
Brain tumors are classified as primary or secondary. A primary brain tumor starts in your brain. Most primary brain tumors are benign. A secondary tumor, also known as a metastatic brain tumor, occurs when cancer cells spread to the brain from another organ, such as the lungs or breast.
Types of brain tumors
Primary brain tumors
Primary brain tumors start in your brain. They develop from you:
- Brain cells
- The layers that surround your brain are called meninges.
- Nerve cells
Primary tumors can be benign or cancerous. In adults, the most common types of brain tumors are meningiomas.
Gliomas are tumors that develop from glial cells. These cells are usually:
- Supports the structure of your central nervous system
- Provide nutrition to your central nervous system
- Clean cellular debris
- Break dead neurons
Gliomas develop from a variety of glial cells.
Types of tumors that start in glial cells:
- Astrocytic tumors, such as astrocytomas, that start in the brain.
- Oligodendroglial tumors often found in the frontal-temporal lobes
- Glioblastomas, which originate in the connective tissue of the brain and are very aggressive.
Other primary brain tumors
Other primary brain tumors:
- Pituitary tumors, which are usually benign
- Ependymomas, which are usually benign
- Craniopharyngiomas, which are more common in children and are benign, but have clinical features such as vision changes and premature puberty.
- Primary microbial cell tumors of the brain, which can be benign or malignant
- Meningiomas, which originate in the meninges.
- Schwannomas, which start in cells that make the protective covering of your nerve (myelin sheath) called Schwan cells.
Most meningiomas and schistosomiasis occur in people between the ages of 40 and 70. These are more common in women than in men. Schwannoma occurs equally in men and women. These tumors are usually benign, but they can cause problems due to their size and location. Cancerous meningiomas and schwannomas are very rare but very aggressive.
Secondary brain tumors
Secondary brain tumors are the majority of brain cancers. They start in one part of the body and spread to the brain or metastasize. The following can metastasize to the brain:
- Lung cancer
- Breast cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Skin cancer
Secondary brain tumors are always malignant. Benign types of tumors do not spread from one part of your body to another.
What are the risk factors for brain tumors?
Only 5 to 10 percent of all cancers are genetically inherited or hereditary. It is very rare for a brain tumor to be inherited genetically. If most of the people in your family are diagnosed with a brain tumor, talk to your doctor. Your doctor can recommend a genetic counselor
The risk of many types of brain tumors increases with age.
Brain tumors are more common in Caucasians. However, African-Americans are more likely to develop meningiomas.
Exposure to chemicals
Exposure to certain chemicals found in the workplace can increase the risk of brain cancer. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health maintains a list of carcinogenic chemicals found in the workplace.
Exposure to radiation
People exposed to ionizing radiation have a higher risk of developing brain tumors. You can be exposed to ionizing radiation through high-radiation cancer treatments. You will also be exposed to radiation from a nuclear fall. The events at the Fukushima and Chernobyl nuclear power plants are examples of how people are exposed to ionizing radiation.
Chickenpox has no history
People with a history of childhood chickenpox have a lower risk of developing brain tumors.
What are the symptoms of a brain tumors?
Some tumors cause direct damage by attacking brain tissue, and some tumors put pressure on the surrounding brain. You will notice noticeable symptoms when the growing tumor puts pressure on brain tissue.
Headache is a common symptom. You may experience headaches:
- It happens when you are asleep
- May be made worse by coughing, sneezing, or exercising
You can also experience:
- Blurred vision or double vision
- Seizures (especially in adults)
- The weakness of an organ or face
- Change in mental functioning
Other common features:
- Memory loss
- Difficult to write or read
- Small changes in the ability to hear, taste, or smell
- Decreased alertness, which can cause drowsiness and loss of consciousness
- Hard to swallow
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Like eye problems, eyelids, and uneven pupils.
- Uncontrolled movements
- Shaking of the hand
- Loss of balance
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Numbness on one side of the body
- Difficulty speaking or understanding what others are saying.
- Changes in mood, personality, emotions, and behavior.
- Difficulty to walk
- Muscle weakness in the face, arm, or leg
How are brain tumors diagnosed?
Diagnosis of a brain tumor begins with a physical exam and an examination of your medical history.
The physical exam involves a very detailed neurological exam. Your doctor will perform an exam to see if your cranial nerves are intact. These are the nerves that originate in your brain.
Your doctor will look inside your eyes with an ophthalmoscope, which will shine light through your pupils and onto your retinas. This allows your doctor to check how your students respond to light. This allows your doctor to look you directly in the eye to see if there is any inflammation of the optic nerve. As the pressure inside the skull increases, changes in the optic nerve can occur.
The doctor can also evaluate it:
- Muscular strength
- Ability to do mathematical calculations.
Your doctor may order more tests after the physical exam is complete. These may include:
Computed tomography of the head
CT scans are ways to get a more detailed scan of your body than your doctor can do with an X-ray machine. The reverse can be done with or without.
Contrast is achieved in a CT scan of the head using a special dye, which helps the doctor see certain structures such as blood vessels more clearly.
Magnetic resonance of the head
If you have an MRI of the head, you can use a special dye to help your doctor identify tumors. MRI is different from a CT scan because it does not use radiation and generally provides more detailed images of structures in the brain.
An angiography test uses a color that is inserted into your artery, usually in the groin area. The color goes to the arteries in your brain. This allows your doctor to see how the blood supply to the tumor is. This information can be helpful during surgery.
Brain tumors can cause fractures or fractures of the skull bones and can show specific x-rays if this occurs. These X-rays can also detect calcium deposits, which are sometimes present in the tumor. There may be calcium deposits in your bloodstream if your cancer has developed in your bones.
A small portion of the tumor is obtained during the biopsy. It is examined by a specialist called a neuropathologist. A biopsy will determine if the tumor cells are benign or malignant. It also determines if cancer started in your brain or in another part of your body.
Treatment for brain tumors
Brain tumor treatment depends on:
- Tumor type
- Tumor size
- The location of the tumor
- Your general health
The most common treatment for malignant tumors is surgery. The goal is to eliminate as much cancer as possible without harming healthy parts of the brain. The location of some tumors allows for easy and safe removal, while other tumors may be in an area that limits the distance the tumor can be removed. Partial elimination of brain cancer is also beneficial.
Risks of brain surgery include infection and bleeding. Clinically malignant tumors can also be removed surgically. Metastatic brain tumors are treated according to the guidelines for the actual cancer type.
Surgery can be combined with other therapies such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy can help you recover after neurosurgery.