Causes, Symptoms, and Management of Brain Tumor
A tumor is an abnormal enlargement of cells in a particular part or organ of the body. These cells are identified by the area it affects in the body. When tumor cells grow in the brain, it is called a brain tumor. Some tumors are carcinogenic, while others are not.
A brain tumor occurs when abnormal brain cells are collected in the brain cells. This kind of tumor is considered dangerous as it grows in one of the most delicate organs of the body. When abnormal growths begin to develop within the skull, which is a tight and rigid part of the head, the problems begin. Some brain tumors are cancerous, while others are noncancerous. Cancerous tumors are known as malignant, while noncancerous ones are referred to as benign. The maturity of both benign and malignant tumors in the brain increases the pressure in the skull. Prolonged pressure in the skull can also lead to brain damage which is extremely life-threatening.
Brain tumors can be grouped into two, namely;
- Primary brain tumor
- Secondary brain tumor
Primary brain tumor forms and develops in the brain. Some primary brain tumors are noncancerous. While secondary brain tumors are also known as a metastasis brain tumor. This is because they spread from other organs of the body to the brain. Some of the organs secondary brain tumors spread from are the lungs and breasts.
Primary Brain Tumors
These brain tumor forms in the brain. They develop and originate from the following parts of the brain;
- Nerve cells
- Brain cells
Primary tumors can be noncancerous; only in few cases are they cancerous.
These tumors originate from glial cells. The glial cells are cells that support the central nervous system and its structure. They are also known to be the providers of nutrients for the central nervous system. They break down neurons and clean cellular wastes.
There are different types of glial cells, and tumors can originate from any of these kinds. The following are the tumors that develop in the glial cells;
- Oligodendroglia tumors; are tumors that are usually found in the frontal temporal lobe of the brain.
- Astrocytic tumors; originate and grow within the cerebrum.
- Glioblastomas; grow and develop in the brain tissues and are the most severe kinds of brain tumor.
Other Primary Brain Tumors
- Ependymomas; it is usually noncancerous
- Pituitary tumors; usually noncancerous
- Primary gem cell tumors of the brain; could either be cancerous or noncancerous.
- Pineal gland tumors could also be cancerous or noncancerous.
- Craniopharyngioma; manifests symptoms like blurry vision and premature puberty. It is common among children and is usually noncancerous.
- The primary central nervous system; is cancerous.
- Meningiomas; develops in the meninges.
- Schwannomas; they develop in cells that produce protection for your nerves, known as Schwann cells.
Schwannomas and meningiomas tumors are most common amongst people between ages 40 and 70. More men have been discovered to suffer from meningiomas than women, while schwannomas occur in both men and women equally. Both meningiomas and schwannomas are noncancerous but can lead to grave complications due to their location and sizes. They are rare but aggressive types of tumors.
Secondary Brain Tumor
Most secondary brain tumors are malignant and lead to brain cancers. They originate from other organs of the body and metastasize to the brain. The following cancers can metastasize into the brain;
Secondary brain tumors are cancerous, while benign brain tumors are not and do not spread from one part of the body to another.
The traits of a brain tumor vary and depend on the size and location of the tumor. Some tumors damaged tissues, while others cause pressure within the skull. Symptoms begin to get noticeable when excess pressure is placed on your skull and brain tissues by the tumor.
- One of the most striking hints of a brain tumor is constant and severe headache. This headache can be terrible, especially while waking up in the morning. Also, it can be so severe that you can feel it in your sleep. It worsens when you cough, sneezing or engage in physical activities.
Other symptoms include;
- Odd mental function
- Double, unclear, or blurred vision
- Numbness of a part of face or limb
- Difficulty swallowing
- Memory loss
- Inability to hear, taste, or smell things as much as before
- Inability to read and write, unlike before
- Weakness and fatigue
- Loss of consciousness
- Reduced alertness
- Eye issues like unequal pupils and drooping eyelids
- Require support and dependence to carry out basic activities like walking
- Hand tremors
- Loss of control over bowel and bladder
- Psychological health changes
- Mood swings
- Difficulty speaking coherently
- Legs, hands, and face muscle weakness
Advanced symptoms, especially in women, include;
- Lack of menstruation
- Nipple discharge
- Swollen feet and hands
- Increased body hair
- Sensitivity to mild temperatures
- Low blood pressure
- Growth of breast tissues in men
- Visual changes
- Age; the risks of brain tumors heighten with age.
- Family history; if a direct family member suffered from a brain tumor, you have a higher risk of developing a brain tumor. Though it is rare for a brain tumor to be inherited genetically.
- Race; African-Americans are more exposed to risks of certain brain tumors.
- Exposure to radiation; some harmful radiation is emitted through cancer therapies. When you are exposed to these radiations, your chances of suffering from a brain tumor increase.
- Exposure to chemicals; some chemicals have been discovered by medical practitioners to cause brain cancer when they are inhaled. If you work in places where these chemicals are used often, you will develop brain cancer in no time.
- Chickenpox; people without a chickenpox history have higher chances of brain tumors. This automatically means, if you had chickenpox as a child, you would have a decreased risk of brain tumor later in life.
After the Doctor must have asked you several questions about your general health and your family’s medical history, a neurological scan will be carried out on your head. If a brain tumor is speculated to be the cause of these symptoms, then other tests may follow. Some of these tests include;
- MRI or CT scan to have a perfect image of everything going on within your skull and brain
- MRA or angiogram tests which involve the use of x-rays of blood vessels and dye to check for signals of a tumor or any abnormal tissue or blood vessel in the brain.
- In addition, a biopsy may be required to determine if the tumor is cancerous or not. This process involves the removal of some brain tissues during the tumor’s surgical removal for sampling. Or the insertion of a long needle into your brain through a tiny hole drilled in your skull. These specimens are then transferred to the lab for testing.
Treatment depends on the following;
- Your general health
- The size of the tumor
- The location of the tumor
- The type of the tumor
Surgery is the most common treatment for certain types of brain tumor, like the malignant tumor. The purpose of the operation is to remove the cancerous tumor and without it damaging the other healthy parts of the brain. Although, the location of certain tumors makes it difficult for surgical removals to be done as they are in delicate places that could cause harm to other parts of the brain if proper and 100% care is not taken.
Some of the surgeries that are used to take out tumor cells from the brain include;
- Craniotomy; involves the opening of the skull. Sometimes you are made to stay awake to tell a story or recite the alphabets during the operation so that the Doctor can know and identify the important parts of the brain.
Surgery is not the remedy to all tumors. It is unsafe to recommend surgery for a tumor in the brain stem or other delicate parts of the brain.
- A blend of surgery and other treatment methods like chemotherapy and radiation therapy can help go a long way in the treatment and management of the disease.
- In addition, after the neurosurgery, therapies like physical, speech, and occupational therapies would help hasten recovery.
In conclusion, not all brain tumors are cancerous. However, it is important to go for medical screenings in order to determine if the one you have is cancerous or not.