Brain cancer is a rare but grave disease. It’s hard to find a cure because research resources for brain cancer are limited compared with other cancers. Brain cancer is a type of tumour. A tumour is a mass in the body, usually made up of a group of cells that grow at a very fast rate. Tumours can form almost anywhere in the body but they most commonly found in the lungs, liver, colon, ovaries or breasts. Cancer starts as one small cell which grows without control and spreads to nearby tissues. The cells keep dividing and spreading without control until they form a lump or mass on the outside of your body or inside one of your organs.
Brain tumours sometimes also called primary brain tumours or central nervous system (CNS) tumours. Brain tumours that starts in the brain i.e. primary or grows from cells that have travelled to the brain from another part of the body i.e. secondary brain tumours.
Some cancers might start in other parts of the body and spread to the brain and become a brain tumour. These cancers are sometimes called secondary brain tumours because they’re not a primary (first) site for cancer. Brain cancer can be a frightening diagnosis, especially if you are at your early age thirties. But there are treatments available that increase your chances of survival.
What exactly went wrong in body to get a brain tumour?
The exact cause of brain tumours is not known but factors that have been linked to their development include radiation and chemical exposure and certain genetic conditions. If you have a parent, relative or friend who has had cancer, you may be more likely to develop the disease yourself. This is called secondary cancer.
It is still unclear what all are the causes of brain tumours. But there are some things which increases your risk of getting a brain tumour.
Family history – it’s estimated that if one parent has had a brain tumour, your risk increases by about four times. But if both parents have had one, your risk is increases by approximately 10 times greater than it would be otherwise.
Exposure to radiation – survivors of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan during World War II were found to have an increased risk of developing certain types of brain tumours. There is also an increased risk for people who work with radiation or people who have been exposed to other sources of radiation such as medical X-rays or natural sources such as radon gas.
Excess use of Phones – Ongoing studies indicate that excess exposure of brain and head to the cell phone radiations can increase the risk of cancers of head, neck, brain and nerves. It is important that the use of cell phones is done in a limited way
Tobacco use – smoking cigarettes and using other tobacco products increases the chance of developing a brain tumour by about 20%.
Age – the older you are, the more likely you are to get a brain tumour. However, children can also get them.
Gender – men have a slightly greater chance of developing a brain tumour than women.
Medical conditions – conditions such as neurofibromatosis and Li-Fraumeni syndrome can increase the risk of a brain tumour.
How tumour are originated and spread?
Cancer can spread throughout your body from the place the original (primary) tumour started. Brain Cancer is the second most common type of solid tumour to affect children, after paediatric leukaemia. Where in your brain a tumour begins is an important factor in whether it is treated with surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy, as well as how much time you have left to live with cancer.
It can do this in two different ways:
- Direct spread: travelling through your blood vessels or lymph system (the body’s natural defence network). For example, lung and breast cancers often spread to nearby lymph nodes.
- Indirect spread: spreading to distant parts of your body via your blood stream or lymph system. For example, this is how prostate cancer can affect bones in your pelvis.
What are the Symptoms of Brain Cancer?
The most common symptom of a primary brain tumour is a new or growing ‘lump’ in your head, usually noticed by yourself or someone close to you. But sometimes it takes time for these symptoms to show up, especially if your tumour is in an area of your brain that controls these functions. Brain tumours can cause a wide range of symptoms depending on their location within the brain and how quickly they grow. You might also experience:
Brain tumours don’t always cause symptoms. In fact, the most common brain tumour in adults, meningioma, often grows so slowly that it goes unnoticed.
What are the different types of Brain Cancer?
Brain tumours are not all the same type – they primarily can be of two types i.e. benign or malignant (cancerous). Benign tumours do not spread to other parts of the body. On the other hand, malignant or cancerous tumours can outspread to other parts of the brain and to other parts of the body. The type of diagnosis you required highly depends on the type of tumour that you might have.
There are different types based on how they look under a microscope, where they start in the brain, and what they are made up of. Different types of tumour require slightly different treatments.
glioma (the most common type) – this affects glial cells and can be either low grade or high grade; Gliomas begin in glial cells, which support and protect neurons in your brain. Because they’re more accessible than some other types of cancer cells, gliomas are often easier to treat with surgery and radiation therapy.
Meningioma – benign tumours that start in the membranes that surround and protect the brain;
Astrocytoma – these are also called ‘grade II’ and ‘grade III’ tumours, depending on how much they grow into surrounding tissue;
Optic glioma – located at the back of the eye socket.
Medulloblastoma – these are fast-growing tumours, usually found in children, which develop from immature cells in the cerebellum.
How is a Brain Tumour Diagnosed?
Treatment for brain tumours depends on the type of tumour, its location and how fast it’s growing. The aim of diagnoses is to remove or compress as much of the tumour as possible, while causing minimal or no damage to the brain around it.
You should have a check-up with your General practitioner if you notice any symptoms of a Brain Tumour. If your General practitioner thinks you might have a Brain Tumour, they will refer you for an appointment with a specialist called a neurologist for further tests, like a CT scan and an MRI scan. The CT scans can show whether there is a tumour in your brain or not.
When you see the neurologist, they may ask several question about your symptoms and how long they have been persistently recurring. They will also ask questions about your health history, like whether you have any blood relatives who have had cancer, and if they go on long-haul flights or work in certain industries. They will also want to know if you ever had radiation treatment to your head or face, since some types of cancer can affect the brain.
Once your neurologist has all this information, they can help work out what type of Brain Tumour you have.
Tumours located in the cerebral hemispheres — the largest parts of the brain that control functions like movement, speech and memory — are often treated with surgery to remove as much of the tumour as possible. But if part of the tumour can’t be removed, doctors sometimes treat it using radiation or chemotherapy.
If the cancer has spread to other areas in your body or if the tumour is chemically sensitive or close to important areas of your brain, your doctor might choose to treat you with chemotherapy before surgery.
The type of chemotherapy used depends on which type of cancer you have and whether it’s considered low-, intermediate- or high-grade. Chemotherapy can shrink a brain tumour, but it can’t get rid of it completely. The goal of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy is to reduce or put a stop to the growth of the tumour. Even if cancer cells can be controlled with treatment, they continue to grow. Eventually, your condition will get worse and you’ll need another treatment.
Radiation therapy is done by using high-energy x-rays or another form of radiation to destroy cancer cells or tumour. Radiation therapy can be used alone, with chemotherapy or after surgery to destroy any remaining cancer cells in your brain.
Treatments like surgery and radiation therapy can cause brain swelling and bleeding. Surgical removal of the brain tumour is performed if the cancer has not rolled out outside of the brain. The most common type of surgery used to remove a brain tumour is craniotomy, which involves making an incision in your scalp and removing the tumour through that opening.
Proton therapy is performed by using a beam of protons not like radiation therapy which uses x-rays to treat cancer. The proton beam is gentler than conventional radiation, so people usually have fewer side effects after treatment.
Brain cancer is one of the least common forms of cancer, accounting for less than 1% of all cancers. In fact, less than twenty-five percent of people diagnosed with brain cancer survive more than five years. However, it’s important to note that not all cancerous tumours are malignant. Some types can actually be benign. Depending on what type of cancer you have, your treatment plan might differ from these general statistics. Brain tumour treatments are specific to the person and their condition.
There are ways to prevent these reactions or reduce the severity of symptoms. For instance, regular exercise during treatment might help boost your energy levels and ease other symptoms. It is important to talk to your doctor about any side effect that you experience so it can be treated quickly if necessary.
Essentially, there’s a wide variety of treatment options available for brain cancer, which can make it difficult to decide on the best course of action. Doctors need to take into account your individual tumour type and location, as well as any other health conditions you may have, in order to determine the ideal treatment for you. Your lifestyle factors are also important—do you have young children? A demanding job? Brain cancer and its treatment can have a significant impact on your everyday life, but with proper care and support, your outlook can be positive.
And remember: you don’t want to do anything without consulting your doctor first! – Sign Of Cancer