Brain cancer is caused by abnormal growths of cells in the brain. There are two types of brain cancer: primary and metastatic. Primary brain cancer starts in the brain and arises from primary brain cells or from the cells that form other brain components. Metastatic brain cancer starts in other parts of the body and then moves to the brain. Brain tumours can be malignant, with cancer cells that grow abnormally, quickly and benign, with no cancerous cells. Thus, not all brain tumours are cancerous as cancer is a term used only for malignant tumours.
Primary Brain Tumours
Primary brain tumours are named after the type of brain cell from which they arise. Brain cancer develops when one type of cell transforms, loses its characteristics and then starts to grow and multiply abnormally. The main primary brain tumours are meningiomas, pituitary adenomas, gliomas, vestibular schwannomas and primitive neuroectodermal tumours.
The National Cancer Institute classifies tumours by the following grades:
- Grade I. In this case, the tissue is benign and the cells look almost like normal brain cells as the cell growth is slow.
- Grade II: The cells look less like normal brain cells than those in grade I and the tissue is benign.
- Grade III: The cells look totally different from normal brain cells and the tissue is malignant.
- Grade IV: The malignant tissue has cells that look very abnormal and they also grow very fast.
Metastatic Brain Tumours
These tumours are made of cancerous cells that spread from a tumor located elsewhere in the body through the bloodstream. Usually, cancers that spread to the brain are those arising from breasts, lungs, kidney and melanoma, a type of skin cancer. Metastatic brain tumours are more common than primary brain tumours and they are named after the type of tissue from which the original cancer cells arose. Brain blood influences where the metastatic cancer cells will stay in the brain. Usually, approximately 85% locate in the cerebrum, the largest part of the brain.
Symptoms Caused By Brain Tumours
The main symptoms caused by brain tumours are:
- problems with memory and thinking
- numbness or tingling in legs or arms
- muscle jerking
- muscle twitching
- problems with walking and balance
- blurry vision
- difficulties with speech
There are a few risk factors that may determine brain tumours, but it’s not known for sure if these factors increase indeed someone’s risk of developing such a tumour:
- HIV infection
- cigarette smoking
- a genetic risk
- radiation to the head
- environmental toxins (chemicals used in embalming chemicals, oil refineries, rubber industry chemicals)
- artificial sweeter
Brain cancer symptoms take place very gradual in some people. Rarely, these symptoms emerge faster. In some individuals, the symptoms may be more pronounced in case the brain cancer is located in a certain brain lobe responsible for specific body functions.
Tests Used to Diagnose Brain Cancer
The fist thing that a doctor will do is to ask his patient about his medical history. He will also perform a physical examination of his patient. Depending on the results of this conversation, other tests will be done such as:
- CT scan (computerised tomography)
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
- tissue sample (biopsy)
Treatment For Brain Cancer
The treatment plan depends on each patient and is conceived by doctors specialised in brain cancer. Additionally, treatments depend on the type of tumor, its size, location, patient’s age, gender and his health status. The most common treatment categories for brain cancer are:
- radiation therapy
X ray of brain cancer
When You Should Go To The Doctor
You should seek medical care if you have some of the following symptoms:
- unexplained and persistent vomiting
- new pattern of type of headaches
- double vision
- unexplained blurring vision, mainly on one side
- changes in personality and behaviour
- walking difficulty
- sudden fever
- difficulty in expressing yourself
Prognosis of Treated Brain Cancer
Survival of treated brain cancer depends on the cancer location, type, overall age and general health of the patient. Reports show that over 75% of children will survive longer than 5 years. Survival in adults greater than 5 years varies from less than 10% to a high of 32%, no matter what type of treatment is used. Recovering from this type of cancer is possible, but a complete recovery occurs very rarely.