What you need to know about Brain Cancer

Facts & Stats

Brain cancer is a condition in which malignant cells or cancer cells develop in brain tissue. Cancer cells form a tumor or cancer tissue mass that interferes with normal brain functions like memory, muscle control, sensation as well as other critical body functions. Only malignant tumors are referred to as brain cancer. Tumors consisting of noncancerous cells are known as benign tumors. Mainly two forms of brain cancer exist. Cancer cells developing from the brain tissues are known as primary brain tumors. On the other hand, tumors spreading from the other parts of the body to brain are called secondary or metastatic brain tumors. Men have a slightly higher chance of developing brain cancer than women.

Symptoms

The main symptoms of brain cancer are listed below:

  • Nausea
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Headaches
  • Blurry visions
  • Reduced sensation of touching
  • Dizziness and difficulty in walking
  • Weakness on any one side of one’s body
  • Hallucinations can be observed in some cases
  • Problems in coordinating the body or movements in general
  • Speech problems, such as inability to speak, slurred speech, impaired voice or other issues

Apart from the symptoms mentioned above, a patient may also experience a drastic change in personality, overall levels of alertness, memory, mental capacity, focus, and other faculties.

Stages

Brain cancers are typically staged according to the cell type that has been affected by the condition. They are also staged according to their grades. This is so because brain cancers hardly ever spread to the other organs of the body. Other types of cancers like lung and breast cancer are commonly staged based on TMN staging method which considers the location as well as spreading of the cancer cells. Brain cancer stages typically range between 0 and 4 where in case of stage 4 patients the cancer has already spread to some other organ. Medical experts decide on the treatment based on the staging of brain cancer.

Causes

The primary brain tumors affect different types of brain tissues such as astrocytes and glial cells. Metastatic brain cancer occurs when cancer cells from other parts of the body spread into the brain. It is important to note that the exact factors that are responsible for the growth of tumor cells are not known for both types of brain cancers. It has been noted that certain risk factors naturally enhance a person’s chances of getting affected by brain cancer. A proximity to chemicals such as embalming products and benzene has been associated with brain cancer. Chemists and people working in the rubber industry also have a greater risk of getting affected by brain tumors.

Diagnosis

The doctor will carry out a physical exam and then recommend tests like CT scans and MRI scans. Since patients of brain cancer generally have other types of health problems, the doctor may recommend routine lab tests like blood work, liver function tests and electrolytes. A biopsy needs to be performed to confirm the presence of cancer cells in the brain. Samples from the tumor are collected by opening the skull. These samples are then observed under a microscope which can help to carry out a definitely diagnosis of the condition. The nature of treatment required can be decided based on these findings.

Treatment

Treatment for brain tumor depends on a number of factors such as age and general health as well as the type, size and location of the tumor. The main forms of treatment for brain cancer include a brain surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. When it comes to brain surgery, the doctor may recommend steroid drugs and anticonvulsant drugs. If excess cerebrospinal fluid is building up around the brain, the surgeon may use a shunt for draining the fluid. Radiation therapy is carried out when physical surgery is not possible. Powerful radioactive rays are used for killing the malignant tumor cells.

Prevention

There are no ways of preventing brain cancer. However, early diagnosis and treatment can prevent the cancer from becoming metastatic. A person may minimize proximity to the risk factors such as harmful chemicals and environmental toxins as this can reduce the propensity of brain cancer from developing.