Brain cancer can occur when healthy brain cells grow into abnormal cells and continue to grow out of proportion. The growing cells continue to invade the nearby tissues and other parts of the brain by forming a solid mass called a tumor. The tumor form in the brain can be either noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant).
Cancerous brain tumors can spread from the point of origin to another part of your brain, causing more damage to your healthy brain tissues. In addition, if the cancerous tumor isn't attended and treated in time, it could continue to spread to other organs within the body. However, the non-cancerous tumor in the brain does not spread to other tissues of the brain or other parts of the body.
Generally, two common types of brain tumors exist, and they both can be referred to as Primary brain tumors or secondary brain tumors. The primary brain tumor originates from your brain and spreads out from the point of origin, while the secondary tumor spreads to the brain from other parts of the body. For instance, a secondary brain tumor might originate from lung cancer, which gradually spreads to the brain.
The brain is the center of all the activities that happen in the body, such as chewing food, thinking, walking, talking and other activities. However, if the brain is infected with cancer, the brain wouldn’t function appropriately, and there would be a lot of missed electrical discharges in the brain. Typically, brain tumors are named after the type of brain tissues where the tumor started growing, and most often, the typical type of brain tumor diagnosed is the primary brain tumor. It can also be referred to as gliomas. Of course, some risk factors can increase your chances of getting brain cancer which would be discussed in the following section of this piece.
The symptoms of brain cancer often begin with the growth of a tumor in the brain; either the tumor is cancerous or non-cancerous, the tumor exerts pressures on the brain tissues. The pressure exerted on the brain tissues can cause headaches, and as the pressure increases, the headache becomes much more unbearable for the individual. Furthermore, there could be personality changes; drowsiness may even develop and other symptoms like nausea, vomiting and uncontrollable body activities.
Typically, depending on the tumor location and the tissue it started from, some other symptoms might manifest due to this. For example, some of these symptoms might occur based on the portion of the brain that has been affected by the tumor, which includes:
Cerebellum: if brain cancer develops a tumor in the cerebellum, there could be difficulty in movement such as walking, increased dizziness, problem articulating your speech and more so, uncontrollable eye movement.
The occipital lobe (back of the brain): there could be loss of vision and hallucinations caused by the tumor growth at the back of the brain.
Frontal lobe (front of the brain): if the tumor starts from the back of the brain, the individual can have behavioral personality changes, develop issues with language and speaking, for instance, impairment in forming words.
Brain Stem: the tumor growth in the brain stem can cause the individual to have serious difficulty with swallowing food, speaking, or possibly suffer from double vision and increased weakness of the body muscles.
Parietal lobe: The growth of tumors in the parietal lobe can cause severe difficulty with reading or writing and can often escalate to recognizing objects or walking through spaces.
Temporal lobes: Another part of the brain affected by the tumor is the temporal lobe. This can cause short-term or long-term memory problems, understand languages, and develop severe problems with speaking. Another common symptom that can occur during this time is brain seizures which can be associated with an unusual smell or sensation.
Individuals who have brain cancer can often wake up in the night due to the severity of the headache they feel, and it could worsen over time. It has also been observed that the severity of the headache can usually become more intensifying when trying to exhale forcefully.
Several types of brain cancer can be diagnosed in patients. Over 120 different types of tumors can easily affect the brain and the body’s central nervous system. Based on the world health organization classification, the tumor in the brain can be easily classified as cell type behavior which can start from mild or less aggressive benign to a much more aggressive malignant.
some examples of the primary brain tumors. Also, brief information about where this tumor can be located in the brain would be explained, more so, if the tumor is benign, malignant or both.
Central Nervous System Lymphoma: CNS lymphoma is a rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma brain cancer that often develops around the brain ventricles and is always malignant.
Glioma: this type of brain cancer is a common one that causes tumors from the glial cells that support the brain’s neurons. This type of brain tumor can either be malignant or benign, while there are several types of this kind of cancer. Oligodendrogliomas, brain stem gliomas, mixed gliomas, ependymomas, and optic pathway gliomas are common cancer examples.
Chordoma: This is another type of brain cancer that usually develops in the base of the skull. Although this cancer grows slowly, it is referred to as malignant mainly because it can quickly spread from the point of origin to other organs like the bone, lungs, or liver.
Astrocytoma: here is another type of brain cancer that can either be malignant or benign. A malignant type of astrocytoma brain cancer is glioblastoma multiforme, which develops majorly in the cerebral hemisphere. Meanwhile, benign astrocytomas brain cancer can develop in the cerebellum, cerebrum, and nerve pathways of the brain, brain stem or at the optic area of the brain.
Medulloblastoma: This is a fast-growing cancer of the brain that forms in the fetal cells that remain after birth. This brain tumor is most often located near the brainstem, and it is primarily found in children. Although it can occur in adults, it is often rare.
Ependymoma: The ventricles of the brain are where this type of brain cancer is commonly found. Meanwhile, some of the ependymomas are often slow-growing benign tumors; other types of this brain cancer are very fast-growing tumors spread to other parts of the body.
Meningiomas: the surface of the brain hosts this type of tumor where the meninges cover the brain surface location. It can either take the form of fast-growing malignant o slow-growing meningiomas.
Pituitary tumor: This type of cancer occurs very close to the pituitary gland, which looks like a pea-shaped organ in the middle of the brain. Most benign tumors occur here when the brain develops cancer.
Pineal tumor: here is another type of brain cancer that starts in the pineal gland, a small organ located deep down in the brain that secretes the melatonin hormone. However, this type of tumor can be either malignant or benign.
A primitive neuroectodermal tumor (PNET): medical doctors have observed this type of cancer as a very aggressive cancer that quickly spreads to other parts of the body. It is most often located in the cerebrum,
Schwannoma: is another type of brain cancer known as acoustic neuroma, and it is most often benign and typically grows slowly.
In the United States of America, about 24,000 adults were diagnosed with brain or spinal cord cancer, while about 18000 patients eventually died from the complication of this cancer. However, the risk of developing brain cancer in a person’s lifetime has been considered to be about 1 percent or less. The causes of brain cancer are solely related to the gene mutations developed by the brain, which causes a change in the DNA sequence of the brain cells. The division of brain cells out of control and continuous formation of tumors is the cause of brain cancer. Without the usual caution that causes a cell's life to stop growing, known as apoptosis, the cells become immortal and continue to multiply out of hand and form a tumor in the brain.
Although the causes of gene mutation in the brain haven’t been well understood and some people are believed to inherit the mutated genes from their parents.
Factors believed to be responsible for brain cancer are highlighted below:
Genetics: brain tumors have been linked to the mutation of the brain cells, which are the suppressor’s genes that should kill the old cells in the brain. However, aside from this, some people inherit this disorder. This brain disorder includes Von Hippel-Lindau disease, neurofibromatosis type 2, Turcot syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, multiple endocrine neoplasias, etc.
Infections: Another reputable cause of primary brain cancer is infections that have been closely linked to CNS lymphoma. Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is an infection believed to cause brain cancer which is also impaired by CNS lymphoma. Medulloblastoma has been linked to Cytomegalovirus (CMV) in children and glioblastoma in adults.
Environment: Aside from the above-listed causes, some risk factors are contributed by the environment and have been strongly believed to be another cause of brain cancer. Exposure to radiation and other chemicals like vinyl chloride in the industrial setting can be a causing factor for brain cancer. Cell phones, electromagnetic fields, wireless headphones have also been listed to be part of factors causing brain cancer. However, there has been no solid proof yet to back up this claim.
It is also common for men to have brain cancer more than women; however, some types of brain cancer, like meningioma, are more pronounced. Generally, white people are also believed to have brain cancer, while Blacks are more susceptible to meningioma.
Indeed, there are various signs and symptoms that individuals can exhibit, and brain cancer behaves differently from each patient. Generally, the doctor suspects brain cancer when some symptoms are associated with brain cancer exhibited by an individual. When more severe neurological symptoms develop, the possibility of brain cancer at the advanced stage is very high. The following procedures, tests and examinations are used to detect brain cancer in any patient.
If you are exhibiting some symptoms such as severe headache, decreased level of awareness, response sensation, there is a possibility of a brain tumor. Other experiences might include reflexes and weak muscle strength, and a low level of coordination. Perhaps after consulting your doctor and suspects a possible brain issue, you might be referred to an ophthalmologist or a neurologist for further test and visual examination. Any abnormal report would be checked thoroughly for any chance of brain cancer.
Imaging studies give doctors a better idea and visualization of the brain tumor and understand the type of brain cancer. Based on the tumor location, appearance, and growth rate, the doctors can quickly determine which category cancer falls into. The most common equipment used to diagnose brain cancer is the computed tomography scan and magnetic resonance imaging. As soon as the doctor has identified the brain cancer, different techniques are often used to understand what type of tumor it is and how it can be treated. Here are some of the advanced MRI techniques
- Functional MRI: this tool is used to measure the activity within the brain and the blood circulation to the critical areas of the brain. If there is any truncation observed, it might have been caused by a brain tumor.
- Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS): here is another tool that compares the composition of the brain tissues when it is healthy to the brain tissue when there is a tumor in it.
- Perfusion MRI: The tool can also be used to grade the tumor and specifically know how the tumor grows and attacks new blood vessels.
In most cases, a biopsy is also used to determine which type of brain tumor is present in a patient’s brain, and doctors diagnose the cancer type. The sample tissue is taken to the lab for testing for proper diagnosis. The pathologist examines the tissue sample under the microscope and evaluates the features and characteristics of the tumor. There are two major types of biopsies used to detect brain cancer: stereotactic biopsy and open biopsy.
Indeed, some other test and diagnosis methods can be employed to determine the presence of a brain tumor in any patient.
Treating brain cancer can only be achieved based on the tumor location and whether the brain tumor is primary or not. The treatment methods used for brain tumors that have spread from the point of origin would be pretty different from the treatment for cancer still contained at the place of development. Here is brief information about the treatment options that can be used to treat brain cancer.
This is the primary and most common treatment option used for treating brain cancer in any patient. While it is the best treatment method, the surgery procedure often involves a craniotomy, tumor removal, and transsphenoidal surgery. In some surgeries, the entire brain tumor isn’t removed, as it could be impossible to achieve this without tampering with the brain. The surgery might be aimed at reducing the size of the tumor while it isn’t removed completely.
Radiation and chemotherapy are the most common methods of treating multiple metastatic brain tumors rarely treated by surgery. Meanwhile, surgical resection of an implant can also be adopted as a treatment method for brain cancer.
Radiation therapy is also one of the most common treatment methods for secondary brain cancer. Although there is different radiation therapy that can be employed and they include
External-beam radiation therapy: This type of treatment helps deliver radiation through the skin target to the tumor from a machine outside the body.
The entire body radiation treatment: this type of treatment is achieved by delivering the radiation therapy to the entire brain. It is used to treat metastasis and some types of tumors that develop in the brain, such as ependymomas and medulloblastomas.
Generally, other treatment methods such as chemotherapy can also treat brain cancer in patients. Only doctors can determine the best treatment method based on what they have seen during a cancer diagnosis.