What is a brain tumor?
A brain tumor is a mass of abnormal cells in the brain. It can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Tumors grow inside the skull and compress or invade vital structures in the brain, impairing important functions of the body which can be life-threatening.
How common is a brain tumor?
In India, the incidences range from 5 to 10 per 100,000 people, with an increasing trend. This accounts for 2% of all malignancies.
Types of brain tumors
Brain tumors can be primary or secondary. Primary tumors originate in the brain while secondary (metastatic) tumors spread to the brain from other organs, such as lung, breast or kidney. Common brain tumors in adults are Meningioma, Glioma, Pituitary Adenoma, Oligodendroglioma, and Vestibular Schwannoma.
- Incidence increases with age
- Family History
- Ionizing Radiation – radiotherapy for any other kind of cancer
- Exposure to chemicals
The symptoms of a brain tumor depend upon the size, location, and type of tumor. Common symptoms include:
- Repeated vomiting
- A weakness of face or limb
- Diminished sensations – vision, hearing, taste or smell
- Confusion, loss of memory
- Loss of consciousness
- Imbalance of body repeated falls
- Personality changes
- Clinical examination – immediately consult a neurosurgeon
- CT scan of the brain
- MRI of the brain
- Angiography – CT scan/MRI
- Biopsy – Craniotomy or Stereotactic
Surgery is the mainstay of treatment for all brain tumors. Surgical excision depends upon the size, type, and location of tumors. Some tumors can be removed completely by surgery while others require subtotal removal because of their location being adjacent to vital areas of the brain. Extensive surgery at such vital areas may cause more risk than benefit to the patient. Radiotherapy (conventional/gamma knife) and chemotherapy are other options for these patients.
Physiotherapy, speech and occupational therapy help patients to recover after surgery.
Debunking myths and addressing facts
Myth: Cell phone use causes a brain tumor.
Fact: Most of the studies deny the occurrence of brain tumor with cell phone use.
Myth: All brain tumor is the same.
Fact: All brain tumor is NOT the same. There over 120 types of brain tumors.
Myth: Young people don’t get a brain tumor.
Fact: Age is not a factor that determines the risk of brain tumors. Even newborns can have brain tumors.
Myth: Once treated, brain tumors do not recur.
Fact: Cancer can recur; hence post-treatment follow-up is crucial to identify the recurrence of cancer if any.
Brain tumors (benign) can be cured completely by surgical excision, while for malignant tumors survival can be prolonged by chemo and radiotherapy after surgery. Early diagnosis and treatment is the keystone for brain tumors.
The writer, Dr. Rajiv Maharshi, is a Consultant of Neuro and Spine Surgery at Narayana Multispecialty Hospital, Jamshedpur