A brain tumour is an abnormal mass of cells that grows abnormally in or around the brain which can impair brain functions if it gets large enough to press on nearby nerves, blood vessels, or tissue. Unlike common myth, not all brain tumours are cancerous. Also symptoms of the health condition may vary from person to person depending on the tumour’s location, type and grade. According to a study, the incidence of central nervous system tumors in India ranges from 5-10 cases per one million people.
Dr. Satish Satyanarayana, Additional Director – Department of Neurosurgery, Fortis Hospitals, Bannerghatta Road, Bengaluru, explains the symptoms, causes and treatment of brain tumour.
Not all tumours are the same and some may be more aggressive than the others. While some may start in the brain area, metastatic tumours are ones that spread to the brain after starting in another body part.
“The rate at which a tumour grows varies. Some tumours grow quickly, while others grow slowly, resulting in either malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous) tumors. Only a third of these are malignant. Primary tumours develop in the brain and are far less common in adults than secondary or metastatic tumors that spread to the brain after starting in another part of the body,” says Dr Satyanarayana.
Although signs and symptoms of brain tumour may vary, here are some common ones:
Signs and symptoms of brain tumour
* Severe and frequent headaches
* Nausea or vomiting
* Blurry or double or loss of peripheral vision
* Loss in equilibrium
* Speech disorientation
* Analysis paralysis
* Inability to obey instructions
* Changes in personality or behaviour
* Hearing issues
While the causes of brain cancer are unknown, exposure to high doses of ionizing radiation or family history can increase the risk. The other factors that may play a role in the development of brain cancer are aging, long-term smoking, exposure to pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizer. Working with elements such as lead, plastic, rubber, petroleum can also increase your chances of getting the disease. Having an Epstein-Barr virus infection, or mononucleosis could also be the possible causes.
There is a common misconception that every tumour will kill you or put you in a coma with multiple mental and physical problems. However, in most cases brain tumors can be successfully treated, and patients can return to their normal lives. To treat a tumor, a combination of therapies based on its location, size, and type are used.
A few options are:
Surgical removal of the tumour is performed whenever possible.
Radiation therapy uses high doses of X-rays to kill or shrink the tumour.
Chemotherapy: Anti-cancer drugs kill cancer cells throughout the body during chemotherapy and can be given as an injection into a vein or as a pill. In some cases, doctors use it prior to surgery to shrink the tumor, alternatively, it can be recommended after surgery to kill any cancer cells left behind or to prevent remaining tumor cells from growing.
Immunotherapy, also known as biological therapy, employs the body’s immune system to combat the disease, stimulate it and help function more effectively.
Target Therapy attacks specific features in cancer cells without harming healthy cells and is recommended if one has trouble tolerating the side effects of chemotherapy.