Brain Tumors

Brain Tumors: An Overview Image

Brain tumors are abnormal growths of cells in or near the brain. Brain tumors can either be malignant or benign, and can occur in any part of the brain.

Types of Tumors in the Brain

Brain tumors are classified according to the location of the originating tumor tissue and whether they are benign or malignant. Benign tumors are non-cancerous, and rarely reappear after being removed, whereas malignant tumors are cancerous and can spread to other parts of the body, or “metastasize.”

Brain tumors are also classified as primary or secondary. Primary brain tumors originate in brain tissue, while secondary brain tumors originate in other body tissues and migrate to the brain.

Brain tumors are further classified by the degree of aggressiveness and where in the brain they are located.

Brain Tumor Symptoms

A person with a brain tumor may experience a variety of symptoms. Brain tumor symptoms include:

  • Double vision
  • Headaches
  • Loss of sensation or movement
  • Nausea
  • Personality changes or mood swings
  • Seizures.

The symptoms of a brain tumor vary greatly depending on the size, location and growth rate of the cancerous cells, among other factors.

Causes and Risk Factors for Brain Tumors

Certain professions are associated with a higher risk of developing brain tumors, especially those that expose employees to radiation and certain chemicals. Other risk factors include:

  • Age (those over 70 or under eight are at highest risk)
  • Family history of brain tumors
  • Gender (males are more likely than females to develop brain tumors)
  • Race (Caucasians are at increased risk).

Brain Tumor Stages

Doctors categorize all cancers, including brain tumors, into stages, depending on their severity and degree of metastasis (or spread to other organs). Cancers are generally classified from Stage I—indicating slow cell growth, to Stage IV—indicating aggressive cell growth and metastasis.

Childhood Brain Tumors

Brain cancer is the second most prevalent type of cancer in children, and the number of infants and children diagnosed with brain tumors has increased with improved diagnostic techniques. Brain tumor treatments for children are usually different than treatments for adults, and will depend on the child’s age and the extent and location of the cancerous cells, among other factors.

Complications of Brain Tumors

A brain tumor can lead to many complications, including:

  • Headaches
  • Hearing loss
  • Personality changes
  • Seizures.

Diagnostic Tests

A doctor will perform certain tests and procedures to ascertain if a patient has a brain tumor. These tests include:

  • Biopsy
  • Imaging exams, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI’s)
  • Neurological exams.

Treatments

Depending on the type and stage of brain tumor, many different brain tumor treatments are available. These include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Clinical trials
  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Radiation
  • Radiosurgery
  • Surgery
  • Targeted drug therapy.

Brain Tumor Rehabilitation and Recovery

After brain tumor surgery or other treatments, many patients need help learning to cope with the healing and recovery process. Support groups, personal research and physical and psychological therapists can all aid in rehabilitation and recovery from brain tumors.

Resources

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research Staff. (2008). Brain tumor. Retrieved March 20, 2010, from the Mayo Clinic website: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/brain-tumor/DS00281.

MedicineNet Staff. (n.d.). Brain tumor. Retrieved March 20, 2010, from the MedicineNet.com website: http://www.medicinenet.com/brain_tumor/article.htm.