What is brain cancer?
Brain cancer is typically caused by a cancerous or non-cancerous tumor growing in the brain. Doctors will many times refer to this as brain tumors since the tumors growing may be benign. Children and adults can be affected in different ways by brain tumors because of where it grows, the cells it grows from, and the type of treatment put in place. Around 24,000 people are diagnosed each year with cancerous tumors found in their brain or spinal cord.
What are the risk factors for brain cancer?
Most brain tumors are not associated with risk factors and specific causes cannot be confirmed. There are a few factors that could increase the risk of brain tumors including:
- Exposure to radiation
- Family history
- Certain genetic disorders or syndromes
- Immune system disorders
What are the symptoms of brain cancer?
Tumors inside of the brain will cause increased amounts of pressure on the skull. This increase in pressure can cause general symptoms such as:
- Blurred vision
- Balance issues
- Personality or behavior alterations
Most headaches tend to worsen over time. Up to half of people suffering from brain tumors will experience a related seizure at some point; however, less than .1 % of first seizures are caused by brain tumors.
How is brain cancer diagnosed?
Most brain tumors can be diagnosed through the patient’s symptoms. Medical history and physical exams are normally conducted followed by imaging tests including MRIs, CT, PET, X-ray and angiogram scans. If imaging shows abnormalities, a biopsy is usually conducted.
How is brain cancer treated?
Brain cancer or tumors is often very hard to treat. Many times, patients will have to work with multiple doctors including a neurologist, radiation oncologist, medical oncologist and endocrinologist.
Several types of treatment can occur depending on a patient’s individual circumstances. Some of these treatments are:
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted therapy
- Other types of drugs
It is important to talk about all of the possible side effects of these treatment options.