FACTS ABOUT BRAIN TUMORS
The Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States estimates that more than 612,000 people are living with some form of primary brain or central nervous system tumor in the U.S. With the brain being the center of our thought, emotion, motor function, and more, a tumor can greatly decrease the quality of life. There are two general types of brain tumors:
• Primary – a tumor that starts in the brain or spinal cord. Primary brain tumors can be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Primary tumors in the brain or spinal cord rarely spread to distant organs.
• Metastatic – a tumor caused by cancer elsewhere in the body that spreads to the brain. Metastatic brain tumors are always cancerous. Brain tumors cause damage because, as they grow, they can interfere with surrounding cells that serve vital roles in our everyday life.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF BRAIN TUMORS
The signs and symptoms that develop due to a brain tumor depend on the type and location of the tumor and the stage of the cancer and its development. Regardless of your type of tumor, seizures are one of the biggest signs of trouble, whether they are full-body convulsions or more localized. Headaches that are especially severe in the morning and changes in personality and behavior are key symptoms that should be relayed to your doctor. Other warning signs include:
• Sudden nausea or vomiting
• Difficulty with speech
• Difficulty with balance
• Difficulty with hearing
• Blurred vision or double vision
• Sudden onset of confusion
It is possible for brain tumors to cause the onset of other symptoms that are not on the list. If you notice any of these signs, schedule an appointment with a doctor right away for an appointment to screen for a brain tumor.
HOW ARE BRAIN TUMORS TREATED?
Brain tumors can be treated with radiation therapy, surgery, and chemotherapy. The ideal type of treatment depends on the type, location, size, and grade of the tumor, as well as the patient’s personal health. Your doctor will first conduct an examination to determine these factors before constructing a treatment plan.
Radiation Therapy Treating Brain Tumors
Radiation therapy is a safe and effective way of treating brain tumors, using concentrated doses of radiation to attack and kill cancer cells. The radiation prevents the tumor cells from multiplying, hindering the cancer’s ability to spread to other parts of the body. Once damaged by the radiation, the cancer cells cannot repair themselves, while healthy tissue is able to regenerate. There are multiple types of radiation therapy, which include:
• External Beam Radiation Therapy – uses an external machine to deliver beams of radiation that are targeted at the tumor.
• Cyberknife System – uses advanced robotics to guide the beams of radiation for more precise targeting of the tumor and a reduced amount affected healthy tissue.
• Brachytherapy – a form of internal radiation therapy, with a minor surgical procedure that places small tubes directly next to or into the tumor. Small bits of radioactive material are inserted into the tubes to create direct exposure to the tumor.
Surgery For Brain Tumors
With a surgical procedure on the brain, this treatment will be performed by a neurosurgeon. Surgery to remove a brain tumor minimizes nerve injury to maintain normal body function.
In some brain tumor cases, surgery can sometimes be the only available option for treatment. It is common for patients to receive radiation treatment after surgery to reduce the risk of tumor recurrence or spread.
Brain Tumor Medical Therapy (Chemotherapy)
Chemotherapy uses various types of medication that are designed to kill cancer cells. The type of drug used depends on the type of tumor and can vary between a pill or intravenous (IV) injection. The frequency and dosage level of chemotherapy treatments will be determined by your medical oncologist.
BRAIN TUMOR RESOURCES
American Brain Tumor Association
Brain Tumor Foundation
National Brain Tumor Society
Also see Helpful Links
*Content provided by the American Society for Radiation Oncology, www.rtanswers.org, and the American Cancer Society.