Brain Tumors: What You Need to Know

Brain Tumors are an abnormal growth of cells in the brain’s tissues. They can be benign, not cancerous, or malignant, meaning cancerous.  

There are two main types of brain tumors—primary brain tumors and metastatic brain tumors. The main difference between the two is where they originate from. Primary brain tumors start in the brain, and metastatic brain tumors form in other parts of the body and then spread to the brain.

According to the American Cancer Society, primary brain tumors are far less common than secondary brain tumors, accounting for about 2 percent of all cancers. 

Brain Tumors are categorized by the type of cells from which they develop. 

Gliomas: These tumors develop from glial cells, which support the nerve cells in the brain. About 80% of primary brain tumors are gliomas. Gliomas are classified as astrocytoma, ependymoma, or oligodendroglioma, based on the specific type of glial cell involved. 

Meningiomas: These tumors develop in the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord (meninges). Meningiomas are usually benign (noncancerous). 

Pituitary Adenomas: These tumors usually occur in the pituitary gland, a small gland at the base of the brain that makes hormones that control other glands and many body functions. Most pituitary adenomas are benign (noncancerous). 

Schwannomas: These tumors form in Schwann cells, which make up the protective sheath (myelin) around specific nerves. Schwannomas most often involve nerves that control balance and hearing. 

Lymphomas: This is an uncommon type of Tumor that involves immune system cells called lymphocytes. Lymphocytes can collect in any part of the body, including the brain. 

What are the Symptoms of Brain Tumors? 

All brain tumors are severe and can cause severe symptoms. The symptoms vary depending on the tumor’s location, size, the rate at which it is growing, and whether it spreads to other parts of the brain or spinal cord. The most common symptoms include changes in memory or concentration, speech problems, personality or behavior changes, vision problems, hearing problems, loss of balance, numbness or tingling in arms or legs, seizures, severe headaches, and nausea. 

What Causes Brain Tumors? 

Brain tumors are often caused by the uncontrolled growth of mutated cells that grow out of control and form into a mass. They can occur anywhere in the brain, including the skull, skull base, or spinal cord. 

The exact cause of brain tumors is still unknown, and there is no clear way to prevent their development. What we do know, however, is that they are linked to certain risk factors, including, 

Age. They are most common among older adults—but they can affect people of all ages. 

Gender. Men are more likely than women to develop a Brain Tumor. 

Exposure to Radiation 

Exposure to Certain Chemicals, agricultural pesticides, or herbicides 

Certain genetic syndromes, such as Li-Fraumeni syndrome and neurofibromatosis type 1, can increase a person’s risk of developing certain types of brain cancer. Additionally, if siblings or parents have had brain tumors, the affected individual’s children may be at greater risk of developing one. 

How Does a Doctor Diagnose Brain Tumors? 

Your doctor may suspect that you have a brain tumor if you are experiencing various symptoms such as headaches, seizures, weakness in your muscles, or loss of vision. The first step is for a Neurologist or a Neurosurgeon to take your medical history and perform a physical exam. They will likely check your reflexes, vision, strength, and other bodily functions during the exam. After this initial assessment is complete, they may order several tests that can include, 

  • Computed Tomography (CT) Scan 
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) 
  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan 
  • Biopsy  
  • Cerebral Angiogram 

What are the Treatments Available? 

Treatment options depend on the type of tumor, its location in the brain, and its stage. Treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. 

Surgery is the most common treatment for noncancerous (benign) and cancerous brain tumors. The goal of surgery is to remove as much of the tumor as possible. Brain tumor surgery may also be used to reduce symptoms such as seizures or headaches by removing part of the tumorous tissue. We are equipped with Intraoperative Magnetic Resonance Imaging (iMRI), a technology to obtain accurate pictures of the brain that guide our neurosurgeons in removing them and treating other conditions such as epilepsy. 

Radiation Therapy uses high-energy x-rays to kill tumor cells. Radiation can come from a machine outside the body (external beam radiation) or from giving radioactive material from inside the body (internal radiation). Both types of radiation may be used to treat a Brain Tumor. Our hospital is equipped with Versa HD with HDRS that delivers SBRT/SRS treatment in a standard 15-minute timeslot and allows our experts to perform single isocenter high-definition dynamic radiosurgery (HDRS) for treating brain cancers.  

Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill tumor cells or stop them from dividing into new cells. Chemotherapy drugs may be given directly into a vein or artery in the brain (intra-arterial chemotherapy). Chemotherapy is sometimes used after surgery to destroy any remaining cancer cells that are too small for doctors to see on scans or under a microscope. 

It is a challenging disease to treat due to the complex makeup of the brain. It is imperative that you seek out the right treatment program to help with the long-term goals of remission and eventually cure. It is essential to understand how the brain tumor has progressed so that you can know what specific treatment options are available for this condition. Our highly experienced Neurologists, Neurosurgeons, Oncologists, Radiologists, and multidisciplinary team of experts is equipped with advanced technology to provide personalized treatment to all our patients.

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