Last updated date: 16-May-2023
Originally Written in English
Brain cancer is the growth of abnormal cells in the brain that develops into masses known as tumors. The tumors are either benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Those that start in the brain are referred to as primary brain tumors. Those which begin in other body parts and metastasize to the brain are known as metastatic or secondary brain cancers.
Based on the type of cancer, the tumors can grow and advance rapidly. This could interfere with the normal functions of the body, causing chronic and life-threatening complications. Early diagnosis and treatment are thus essential.
Types of Brain Cancer
Some of the common types of brain cancer include;
- Brain metastases
- Acoustic neuroma
- Choroid plexus carcinoma
- Embryonal tumors
- Pituitary tumors
Causes of Brain Cancer
The primary brain cancers start in the brain or the surrounding tissues. It includes meninges (covering membranes), pituitary gland, pineal gland, or cranial nerves. Medical professionals believe that the tumors develop when the body cells obtain DNA mutation or errors.
These errors trigger the normal cell to grow and multiply out of control rapidly. They also have the ability to live and survive in the body even when the healthy cells die. This results in a group of abnormal cells that eventually become tumors.
Other factors that can trigger brain cancer include;
- Family history of similar health condition
- Prolonged exposure to higher doses of ionizing
- Old age
- Prolonged exposure to chemicals such as pesticides, fertilizer, and herbicides
- Long term smoking
- Infections such as the Epstein-Barr virus
On the other hand, secondary brain cancers start in other parts of the body and spread to the brain. Although any type of cancer can metastasize to the brain, the commonly known types include;
- Kidney cancer
- Lung cancer
- Colon cancer
- Breast cancer
Signs and Symptoms of Brain Cancer
The signs and symptoms of brain cancer can vary based on the types and location of the tumor. However, the common brain cancer symptoms you are likely to experience include;
- Headaches that slowly get severe and more frequent
- Changes or new onset of headache patterns
- Nausea and vomiting
- Difficulties with speech
- Vision disorders, including double vision, blurry vision, and peripheral vision loss
- Balance problem
- A gradual loss of a leg or arm movement or sensation
- Seizures, particularly in a person with no medical history of seizures
- Changes in behaviors or personality
- Hearing problems
Diagnosing Brain Cancer
In case the doctor suspects a brain tumor, they can recommend a few tests and procedures such as;
A neurological examination:
A neurological examination can include assessing vision, balance, hearing, coordination, reflexes, and strength, among others. A problem or difficulty in any of these parts gives the doctor an idea of the area of the brain that might be affected by a tumor.
Imaging tests and procedures:
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the most common imaging test that doctors often use to detect brain tumors. In certain cases, a dye can be injected into the vein in the arm when performing MRI analysis.
There are several specialized MRI scanning techniques that doctors can use to evaluate brain cancer and develop a treatment plan. It includes magnetic resonance spectroscopy, functional MRI, and MRI perfusion.
Doctors can also recommend other types of imaging tests, including computerized tomography (CT). They can also use positron emission tomography (PET) for brain imaging. However, it’s not always as effective for producing pictures of the brain tumor as it is for different forms of cancer.
Tests to diagnose brain cancer in other body parts:
At times, brain cancer results from a tumor that started in another part of the body and spread to the brain. In such a case, the doctor can recommend some tests and procedures to find out the exact origin of the cancer. Examples of these tests include PET, or CT scans to assess lung malignancy symptoms and signs.
Another diagnostic test for brain cancer is a biopsy, obtaining small samples of the abnormal tissues for testing. Mostly, doctors perform a biopsy as a part of the surgical procedure to extract the tumor or sometimes using a needle.
A stereotactic needle biopsy can be performed for brain tumors located in areas that are difficult to access. It can also be in susceptible regions within the brain that may be affected by more extensive surgery. The surgeon will drill a small hole in the brain and insert a thin needle via the opening. After that, a tissue sample is extracted using a needle guided by MRI or CT scanning.
The biopsy sample is then examined under a microscope to assess if it is malignant or benign. Such advanced laboratory tests can provide the doctor with hints regarding the prognosis and the treatment alternatives.
Brain Cancer Treatment
There are many treatment options for treating and managing brain cancer. However, the treatment form for primary brain cancer is usually different from cancers metastasizing from other body parts.
Doctors can administer one or more forms of treatment based on the location, type, and shape of the brain tumor. Other factors can include age and overall health.
Brain cancer treatment options can thus include the following;
- A surgical procedure
This is the most common form of treatment for cancer of the brain. Mostly, a section of the tumor can be taken out because of the location. In other cases, the location of the tumor is in an inaccessible region of the brain or a sensitive part. In such a situation, surgery to extract cancer cannot be done. These types of brain tumors are known as inoperable.
There are several complications associated with surgery to remove a brain tumor; it includes bleeding and infection. Other risks can rely on the area of the brain where the cancer is located. For example, a procedure on a tumor closes the nerves that link to the eyes can pose a risk of vision loss.
Doctors can use chemotherapy medications to kill the cancerous cells in the brain. It also helps shrink the tumors before conducting surgery to take them out. Chemotherapy medications can either be administered orally through the mouth or intravenously.
The chemotherapy medicine that doctors mostly use to treat brain cancers is known as temozolomide. It’s usually used as a tablet. Several other chemotherapy medications are available and can be used based on the type of brain tumor.
The side effects of chemotherapy usually depend on the form and dosage of medications administered. In most cases, chemotherapy may result in headaches, vomiting, nausea, and loss of hair.
Testing the brain tumor cells will dictate if chemotherapy would be beneficial to you. Besides, the type of brain cancer you have is also crucial in deciding whether to prescribe chemotherapy.
- Radiation therapy
Doctors can recommend radiation therapy to kill the cancerous cells or tumor tissue or cancer cells that can’t be surgically extracted. It uses high-energy waves like x-rays or protons to address the condition.
Radiation treatment may come from a machine outside the body, a procedure known as external beam radiation. In sporadic cases, radiation may be positioned within the body next to brain cancer. This treatment process is referred to as brachytherapy.
External beam radiation can either concentrate on the region of the brain in which the cancer is located. Alternatively, it can be administered to the whole brain, a process known as whole-brain radiation. This is most commonly used to treat a tumor that metastasizes to the brain from another body part and develops several tumors within the brain.
Radiosurgery is not a typical form of operation. Rather, it utilizes various radiation beams to provide a highly concentrated type of radiation therapy. This destroys the cancerous cells within a limited region. Every beam of radiation is not especially effective.
However, all beams connected to the brain tumor receive a significant radiation dose to destroy cancer.There are several types of techniques that doctors can use to administer radiation to cure brain cancer. The most common method includes linear accelerator or gamma knife.
- Targeted drug therapy
Targeted drug therapy focuses on particular defects of tumor cells. They can make the cancerous cells die by blocking these defects or abnormalities.
Targeted treatments are designed for some types of brain tumors, and many more are being tested in clinical trials. Moreover, there are several different types of targeted therapy being implemented.
Brain cancer is one of the most chronic and life-threatening health conditions. It can develop from various brain cells or if the tumor cells from another part of the body metastasize into the brain. While some types of brain cancers are less aggressive, others are highly aggressive, and immediate treatment is necessary.
CloudHospital specializes in providing comprehensive treatment and care to children and adults with brain tumors. It works with skilled medical experts trained to diagnose brain cancers and develop a suitable treatment plan.