Having a brain tumor does not necessarily mean brain cancer. A brain tumor is merely an extra collection of brain cells that formed a mass. They can be either cancerous or benign (non-cancerous). A brain tumor of any kind can be dangerous because it can interrupt nervous system processes like vision, hearing, or cause headaches because of increased pressure in the skull and even strokes.
Brain tumors that are cancerous are usually very aggressive and almost always life threatening, while their benign counterparts can also be dangerous if they grow too large. These tumors can happen to anyone, at any age. This article will help you understand more about brain tumors and how they are treated.
What Is A Brain Tumor?
Brain tumors are an overgrowth of abnormal cells that form into a mass. They are either cancerous or non-cancerous, but both can take up space in the brain and interfere with the nervous system. The abnormal cells in brain tumors can kill off healthy brain cells, they can also cause swelling on the brain. Over time, they can begin to affect the body’s vital functions like movement, talking, hearing, eating, and sometimes even breathing if they are near the brainstem.
The most common symptoms of a brain tumor are:
Headaches that are chronic and not relieved by medication
Trouble thinking and memory issues
Feeling off balance
Weakness in the extremities
Presence of any of these symptoms does not necessary mean a brain tumor and should be evaluated by a doctor for diagnosis.
There are two different causes of brain tumors according to their type:
Primary. This type of tumor begins in the brain tissue itself. They are either non-cancerous or cancerous. This happens in the brain when the brain cells become abnormal and replicate themselves as abnormal cells. They tend to overgrow the healthy brain cells and form into a mass.
Secondary. These brain tumors form when cancer spreads from somewhere else in the body to the brain. These are one of the most common types of brain tumors and are always due to cancer. Some common cancers that have a tendency to spread to the brain include skin cancer (melanoma), colon cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer and kidney cancer.
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Age under 8 years old and over 70
History of radiation exposure
Vinyl chloride exposure
Genetic disorder (Klinefelter Syndrome, Turcot Syndrome, Neurofibromatosis)
History of Epstein-Barr
Organ Transplant recipients
In recent years, many have begun to question the use of cell phones as a brain tumor risk but researchers have not been able to link the two.
There will be a wide range of tests for brain tumors. This will help the doctor understand if the tumor is a primary or a secondary tumor, and if a primary tumor is cancerous or not. These tests include:
Neurological Evaluation. You may have your vision, hearing, strength, reflexes, and balance checked.
MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). An MRI uses a large magnet to scan and take pictures of the brain tissue. Sometime, a dye is injected to see abnormalities better.
PET Scan. A PET scan is done with a radioactive “tracer” that can help give a good 3-D picture of your organs. The “tracer” is given through an injection directly into a vein.
CT scan. A full body CT scan may be done to look at other parts of your body for cancer that might have spread to the brain.
Biopsy. A neurosurgeon may have to make a small hole into the skull and insert a needle in order to remove little tissue for examination.
Treatment for any brain tumor is surgery. There are a few different things done after surgery depending on the type of tumor:
Primary (Benign). The first step is to surgically remove the tumor. No chemotherapy is done, but even with a benign tumor a course of radiation may be prescribed. After surgery, you may be put on steroids to help reduce swelling in the brain.
Primary and Secondary (Cancerous). Surgery is may be combined with chemotherapy and radiation.
Inoperable Tumors Once in a while, a tumor is found that cannot be surgically removed due to its location. The doctor may opt to do “Gamma Knife Therapy” which is radiation, or a combination of chemotherapy and radiation.
After brain surgery, you may need certain therapies to help with your recovery:
If you have been diagnosed with a brain tumor, take steps to manage the symptoms while you await surgery.
Avoid driving or operating heavy machinery if you are having seizures.
Use caution if your balance is off. Use a walker or cane if necessary. Avoid stairs and use an elevator whenever possible.
If your memory and thoughts are affected, write things down. Keep a calendar, journal, and/or a notebook.
If your personality is affected, let people know around you this is a symptom of your condition. Especially at work and close family.
While these tips are not a cure for brain tumors, the following may help you manage your condition. Make sure you talk to your doctor before using any herbs or supplements.
Eat less red meat and add fish, tofu, beans, and eggs for protein. This helps prevent muscle wasting with chemotherapy.
Include plenty of healthy oils in your diet; coconut oil, olive oil, and fish oil.
Do not eat processed foods, margarine, or trans-fatty acids.
Avoid coffee, smoking, and alcohol.
Take a good probiotic to build up your immune system before chemotherapy.
Try acupuncture to help relieve symptoms.
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