Overview of Brain Cancer
Brain cancer is also known as a brain tumor, which is a mass of abnormal cells on the brain. There are many types of brain tumors from cancerous to noncancerous. Brain tumors may begin in the brain or can begin in other parts of the body and then spread into the brain. The growth and location of a brain tumor varies from person to person. The treatment will depend on these factors. Another large part of brain cancer is determining if the cancer originated or spread to other parts of the body.
Symptoms of Brain Cancer
The symptoms that you experience with brain cancer will depend on the location, size, and growth of the tumor. You may notice a variety of symptoms from headaches, nausea, vomiting, vision problems, speech difficulties, balance problems, loss of movement in an arm or leg, behavioral changes, confusion, hearing problems, or seizures. You will want to see your physician if you begin to notice any symptoms that are concerning to you.
Causes of Brain Cancer
A primary brain tumor is the most common type of brain tumor or brain cancer. It originates in the brain and occurs when the cells mutate their DNA. The mutation allows cells the grow and divide, therefore the person is left with a mass of abnormal cells, or a tumor. There are a variety of types of brain tumors that can occur. Each brain tumor is named after the type of cells involved.
- Gilomas – brain or spinal cord
- Meningiomas – brain or spinal cord; typically noncancerous
- Acoustic neuromas – benign tumor that develop on the nerves that control balance
- Pituitary adenomas – benign tumors that develop on the pituitary gland
- Medulloblastomas – most common cancerous brain tumor found in children; begins in lower back part of brain
- Germ cell tumors – occurs where testicles and ovaries will form; occurs during childhood
- Craniopharyngiomas – noncancerous tumor that begins on pituitary gland
Secondary brain tumors are also common. This occurs when cancer originates in another part of the body and then spreads to the brain. This is most common in people who have a history of cancer. In adults, a secondary brain tumor is more common that primary brain tumors. Any type of cancer can spread to the brain. The most common types of cancers to spread to the brain are: kidney, breast, colon, lung, and melanoma.
Risk Factors of Brain Cancer
The cause of most primary brain tumors is unknown. There are some risk factors that may be associated with them. People who have been exposed to radiation are at a higher risk. Radiation may have been through work environments or through previous cancer treatments. If your family has a history of brain tumors, then you are at an increased risk of brain tumors.
Diagnosing Brain Cancer
If you and/ or your physician believe that you have brain cancer, there are a few types of diagnostic tests that can be done. The first test may be an imaging test. A positron emission tomography (PET), computerized tomography (CT), or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be ordered. These tests will give your physician a good look at your body and see where the cancer may be. This will also show if and where there is other cancer found in the body. If they are able to find other cancer in the body, then this will likely shift the types of treatments that they are going to do.
When choosing a location for your imaging tests, give us a call and ask any questions that you may have. Mobile Molecular Imaging offers imaging services that are able to accurately and promptly diagnose cancer. The most important part in imaging for brain cancer is to confirm that the brain cancer has not spread to other areas or originated from other areas of the body. If the cancer is found in other areas, then the treatment of cancer may vary.
A neurological exam may also be ordered. This type of test will be able to test your hearing, balance, vision, coordination, strength, and balance. If you struggle in one or more of these areas, it will show that your brain is being affected by a tumor.
A biopsy may be done to collect a piece of the tumor and do further testing on the tumor. This can be done through a needle or through surgery, if necessary.
Treatment of Brain Cancer
Treatment will all depend on the size, location, and type of brain cancer that you have. It will also depend on if your cancer has spread or originated in another part of the body.
Surgery may be an option to remove as much of the tumor in the brain as possible. In some cases, surgery is an easy option to remove the tumor from the surrounding tissue, but in other cases, it may be very difficult. If the situation becomes risky, then the physician will make the necessary moves in order to be safe, while removing as much of the tumor as possible. Removing even a small portion of the tumor may aid in the reduction of symptoms. The risks of surgery include infection and bleeding.
Radiation therapy uses a high-energy beam to destroy the cancer cells. There are a few types of radiation therapy that may be used to treat brain cancer. Your physician will decide which form will be best for you based on your situation.
Chemotherapy is one of the common types of drugs that is used to treat cancer. This can be taken orally or through a vein. This can be used along with surgery or radiation therapy. Your physician will decide which type of treatment will be best for your case, and may include a combination of any of the above treatments. If you have brain cancer as well as cancer found in other areas of the body, your treatment will likely be different than if you only had brain cancer. This is because the physician will want to treat all of the cancer in the body. In some cases, this can be done through chemotherapy alone, but other cases may require surgery as well.