Abnormal growth of cells in your brain is known as brain tumour. It can be malignant (cancerous) or benign (noncancerous). A brain tumour may raise the pressure inside your skull, leading to cerebral damage. This can be a life-threatening condition. Brain tumours can be broadly categorised into primary (originating in the brain) and secondary (originating in other body organs and spreading to the brain). While primary tumours can be both benign and malignant, secondary tumours are always cancerous.
TYPES OF BRAIN TUMOUR
As already mentioned, a brain tumour can be either primary or secondary. There are several types of tumours in these categories depending on the location and origin.
Primary brain tumour
The most common types of primary brain tumour in adults are gliomas and meningiomas. Gilomas are tumours that originate glial cells. Located in the in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and the peripheral nervous system, these cells do not produce electrical impulses. Meningiomas, which generally attack people after 40, originate in the meninges. These are membranes lining the skull and vertebral canal/ and enclose the brain and spinal cord. Other types of primary brain tumour include pituitary tumors, (benign), pineal gland tumors, (can be benign or malignant), ependymomas (mostly benign), craniopharyngiomas (benign), primary central nervous system (CNS) lymphomas (malignant), primary germ cell tumors of the brain ( can be benign or malignant).
Secondary Brain Tumour
These are malignant tumours which spread from one part of the body to the brain. Lung cancer, breast cancer, kidney cancer and skin cancer can metastasize to the brain.
SYMPTOMS OF BRAIN TUMOUR
The symptoms of brain tumour differ on the basis of their location, size and rate of growth. However, the most common symptom of this condition is headache. It gets worse when you wake up in the morning, cough, sneeze, or exercise. You may experience headache even while you sleep. Other common manifestations of brain tumour include:
DIAGNOSIS OF BRAIN TUMOUR
The initial steps towards the diagnosis of brain tumour include a physical neurological examination by your doctor and complete evaluation of your medical history. Your neurologist will also check your muscle strength, optic nerves and memory and other cognitive skills. After these, he may suggest the following tests depending on your condition:
It takes X-ray images of the brain at many different angles. These images are then processed to produce 3D images of a brain, making it feasible to check for the tumour.
It is the most preferred diagnostic test to detect brain tumour. In this imaging test, a machine sends radio waves and magnetic fields to the brain. It helps the doctor to look out the intricacies that might have been missed out during CT scans. It is used to detect the blood flow through the blood vessels, tumours and cancers.
This is also an imaging test that checks blood supply to the brain tumour with the help of a dye injected into your arteries.
This test helps your doctor figure out if your tumour has led to any breakage or fracture in your skull bones. It also helps in the detection of calcium deposits in your blood. If the cancer spreads to your bones, then the calcium in your tumour can percolate to your blood.
Through this test, a small tissue sample from the tumour is collected to check if it is malignant or benign. It will also help your doctor find out the origination of cancer.
TREATMENT OF BRAIN TUMOUR
Your doctor will decide on the line of treatment for brain tumour depending on factors like the type of tumour, its size, location and the general health condition of the tumour. Here are the options:
Surgery: This is the most common treatment for malignant brain tumours. The aim is to remove as many cancer cells as possible without affecting the healthy areas of the brain. The options for surgical intervention include microscopic brain surgery or endoscopic surgery. The choice depends on the size, location and type of cancer.
Chemotherapy: If the tumour is difficult to remove, especially in the case of elderly people, (where surgery might not be a preferred option), chemotherapy may be the only option. But it is dependent on the type of cancer – malignant or benign and how exactly the tumour is growing.
Radiation therapy: In this, ionised gamma rays are passed through the brain to inhibit growth of the tumour. In advanced cases, pulverised gamma rays are commonly used to control the tumour growth.
PROGNOSIS OF BRAIN TUMOUR
Once the treatment is done, you should undergo regular follow-ups to know how effective the treatment was. This is because in most cases, there is a high chance of remission of cancer. Also, your doctor might recommend a CT-scan to detect if the tumour is completely removed or not.
Apart from this, here are few tips you need to keep in mind.
- Follow-up: A CT-scan might help in detecting whether the tumour is completely removed or not. If not, your doctor might recommend radiation therapy to fight cancer.
- Exercise: It is important to be physically active as it increases the blood supply to the brain and also helps you to cope with the condition in a better way. However, ask your doctor about the type of exercises you can perform, as it is dependent upon the severity of the condition and the type of treatment.
- Take care of associated complications: In case the tumour has resulted in paralysis of the body, you might need to undergo treatment for the underlying disease before getting treated for cancer. Also, the ability to recover is dependent on whether the tumour has resulted in any severe health condition like paralysis. Hence, it is inter-related.
- Be positive: There is no need to follow any dietary restrictions, but make sure you take the medications as prescribed by the doctor and follow his recommendations without fail (including follow-ups).
RISK FACTORS BEHIND BRAIN TUMOUR
The risk factors of this condition include:
Age: Although brain tumour can occur at any age, elderly people are known to be at a high risk of suffering from this disease. Malignant tumours are common in the elderly population.
Gender: According to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, brain tumour is more common in males than in females. This is because men lack a protein called retinoblastoma protein (RB), which is known to reduce cancer risk.
Exposure to radiation: Ionizing radiationcan up your chances of getting brain tumour. Cancer therapy may expose you to this risk factor.
Family History: Brain tumour is rarely hereditary. However, you must consult a neurologist if you have a family history of this condition. He may recommend a genetic counselling.
PREVENTION OF BRAIN TUMOUR
"As the exact cause of the brain tumour is not known, there are no precautionary measures to prevent brain cancer. However, you should go for a yearly check-up as you cross 50, lead a healthy lifestyle and if you experience any of the symptoms of brain tumour, visit your doctor immediately,"says Dr Satnam Singh Chabbra, Senior Consultant and the Vice Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi.
The content has been verified by Dr. Satnam Singh Chabbra