What is brain tumor?
Generally speaking brain tumor is a mass or growth of abnormal cells in your brain or close to brain. Primary brain tumor can either be malignant (contains cancer cells) or benign (do not contain cancer cells). A primary brain tumor is a tumor which begins in the brain tissue. It can occur at any age. Doctors and researchers do not know the exact cause of the brain tumors. The signs and symptoms of the brain tumor will depend upon the size, type and location.
Types of brain tumor are:
- Glioma Tumor
- Meningioma Tumor
- Pituitary Tumor
- Metastatic Tumor
- Choroid plexus carcinoma
- Embryonal tumors
- Pineal Tumor
Based on the location and size of the tumor the symptoms are shown on the body. Symptoms repeatedly are caused due to damage to the vital tissues and pressure on the brain as the tumor grows within a limited space of the skull. If the brain tumor is growing gradually and slowly, its symptoms may not appear for some time. The most frequent symptoms include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weakness or loss of feeling in the arms and legs
- Lack of coordination in walking
- Abnormal eye movement or change in vision
- Memory loss
- Problem in speech
A diagnostic test can be performed based on the symptoms to determine if the cause of symptoms is a brain tumor and if it is primary or the secondary one. The doctor will ask many questions about personal and family history and may perform a complete physical examination. He may ask for the following test:
- Computerized tomography (CT) scans
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
Other requested test may include:
- Angiogram or arteriogram
- Brain Scan
- Functional imaging
- MR spectroscopy
Treatment for a brain tumor depends on a number of a factor which includes location and size of the tumor together with the age and general health of the patients. However, the treatment method and schedules may differ in adults and children.
Brain tumors are generally treated with surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. The team for all the treatment includes a neurosurgeon, medical oncologists, radiation oncologist, nurses, a dietitian and social workers too, they all work together to provide the best possible care. Before the treatment starts the patients are given steroids, drugs that can lessen the swelling. Also, the patients are given anticonvulsant medicine to prevent to control seizure.
Surgery is the most common procedure that is performed to treat brain tumors. To do the procedure of removing a brain tumor a neurosurgeon makes an opening in the skull, the procedure is called craniotomy. If possible the surgeon tries to remove the entire tumor but if it cannot be removed completely without damaging the vital brain tissues, the surgeon may remove as much of the tumor as possible.
The partial or full removal of the tumor relives the symptoms by reducing the pressure on the brain. If it is partially removed it reduces the amount of tumor to be treated by other therapy like radiotherapy and chemotherapy. If the surgeon by no mean can remove the tumor, they do a biopsy. A small piece of the tumor is removed so that the pathologist can examine the type of cell it contains. This helps the doctor decide what kind of treatment should be given to the patients.
Sometimes surgeons use an unusual head frame and CT scans or MRI to identify the precise location of the tumor. The surgeons make a small hole in the skull and then direct the needle towards the tumor. Using such technology to do a biopsy or for treatment is called stereotaxis.
- Radiation therapy
Also called radiotherapy, where high powered rays are used to damage the cancer cells and stop them from growing. It is also useful in destroying the tumor tissue that cannot be removed with surgery. It also kills the remaining cancer cells which are left after surgery. Giving the total dose of radiation over an extended period of time helps to protect healthy tissue in the area where the tumor is.
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Doctors can use just one drug or a combination. The drugs are often given orally or by injection into the blood vessels or muscles.