A brain tumor is a mass of abnormal cells that grows in the brain or spine. Brain tumors are most often found in adults, but they can also occur in children and teens. They’re usually managed by your primary care doctor, who will refer you to a specialist if necessary.
Types of Brain Tumors
There are two types of brain tumors: benign and malignant.
- Benign tumors grow slowly, do not spread to other body parts, and rarely cause death.
- Malignant tumors grow quickly, spread from the original site to other parts of the body through the blood or lymphatic system, and can be fatal.
Symptoms and Signs
Brain tumors can cause a variety of symptoms and signs. The most common are headaches, nausea and vomiting, numbness or weakness in the face, arms, or legs; difficulty speaking, seizures; personality changes; memory loss; problems with balance and walking.
Causes of Brain Tumors
Brain tumors develop because of the following factors:
Genetic factors. The cause of brain tumors is not well understood, but some types are associated with a family history of cancer.
Radiation. High doses of radiation can increase your risk for certain types of brain tumors, especially if you’re exposed to them during childhood or adolescence when the brain is still developing and growing rapidly.
Chemicals. Certain chemicals used in manufacturing and industrial processes have been linked to an increased risk for certain types of brain tumors; these include asbestos (used in insulation), vinyl chloride (used in plastics), arsenic and chromium compounds (used in metal production).
Diagnosis of Brain Tumors
CT scan: A CT scan is a type of X-ray, or imaging test, that uses a computer to create detailed pictures of the inside of your body.
MRI: An MRI uses magnetic fields and radio waves to make pictures of the brain and spinal cord. The images show soft tissues like tumors or cysts, blood vessel abnormalities (aneurysms), and other conditions that affect the nervous system.
PET scan: A positron emission tomography (PET) scan combines a special tracer injected into your vein with a scanner that detects its location within your body by following its path inside you over time for about 45 minutes after injection until the tracer reaches its highest concentration within any one organ system (for example, brain tissue) before being eliminated from circulation through urine excretion.
The Prognosis for Brain Tumor Patients
The prognosis for a patient with a brain tumor will depend on the type of tumor, as well as its location within the brain. Tumors that are slow growing and do not spread to other parts of the body generally have a better prognosis than tumors that grow quickly or are malignant (cancerous).
The prognosis for benign tumors: Benign tumors are more likely to be successfully treated with surgery alone. Patients who have had surgery for benign tumors may experience symptoms related to their condition after treatment, such as headaches or seizures.
Prognosis for malignant tumors: Malignant (cancerous) tumors require different care depending on where they occur in your body. If you need radiation therapy or chemotherapy after surgery, these treatments will help reduce your risk of recurrence (new growth).
Patients need to understand the symptoms of this condition so they can seek medical attention as soon as possible if they suspect something might be wrong with their brain or spinal cord.