Brain Cancer is a disease where we see cancerous/malignant tumours in the brain. Some brain cancers happen when one type of cell alters its normal characteristics. The altered cells grow and multiply in abnormal ways. These being abnormal cells grow and become a mass or a tumour. Such brain tumours which originate in the brain are called Primary Brain Tumours. Tumours that do not invade nearby tissues or spread to other areas are called benign tumours, while the ones that do are malignant/cancerous tumours. Malignant tumours grow to form a mass of cancer tissue that interferes with brain functions such as muscle control, sensation, memory and other normal body functions. When the cancerous tumours spread from other body sites to the brain they are termed as Metastatic or Secondary Brain Tumours.
It is also important to note that while benign tumour is less serious than a malignant tumour, they can still cause many problems in the brain by pressing on nearby tissue. It is therefore advised that such benign tumours are monitored and/or treated as per doctors’ recommendations.
Symptoms of brain cancer usually develop over time and their characteristics depend on the location and size of the tumour. Brain cancer symptoms include:
· Behavioural and emotional changes
· Impaired judgment
· Impaired sense of smell
· Memory loss
· Paralysis on one side of the body
· Reduced mental capacity
· Inflammation of the optic nerve
· Impaired speech
· Inability to write
· Lack of recognition
· Spatial disorders
· Difficulty in speaking and swallowing
· Headache, especially in the morning
· Loss of hearing
· Muscle weakness on one side of the face
· Uncoordinated gait
· Mental and emotional changes
· Prolonged drowsiness (somnolence)
· Loss of vision
Primary brain tumours may develop in different parts of the brain. The common types of primary brain tumours are Gliomas, Meningiomas, Pituitary Adenomas, Vestibular Schwannomas, and Primitive Neuroectodermal Tumours also called Medulloblastoma. Glioma also includes Glioblastoma, Astrocytoma, Oligodendroglioma, as well as Ependymoma.
Metastatic brain cancer is caused by the spread of cancer cells from a body organ to the brain. However, the causes for the alteration of normal cells to cancer cells in both metastatic and primary brain tumours are not yet fully understood. Research show that people with certain risk factors are more likely to develop brain cancer.
Individuals with risk factors, such as having a job in an oil refinery, handlers of jet fuel or chemicals like benzene, chemists, embalmers & rubber-industry workers, show higher rates of brain cancer than the general population. Some families have several members with brain cancer, however heredity/genetics as a cause for brain tumours has not been proven. Other risk factors such as smoking, radiation exposure and viral infections like HIV have been suggested but not proven to cause brain cancer. There is no evidence that brain cancer is contagious, caused by head trauma or caused by cell phone use.
A brain cancer treatment plan is customised for each patient. The treatment plan is constructed by the doctors who specialise in brain cancer, and treatments vary widely depending on the cancer type, tumour location, tumour size, patient age and patient's general health status.
A major part of the plan is also determined by the patient's wishes. Patients should discuss treatment options with their healthcare providers. Most treatment plans for brain cancer are complex and can involve several consulting doctors.