Brain tumors are growths of abnormal cells in the brain normally caused by abnormal cell division. These growths can be either benign or malignant – benign tumors do not spread and are normally not life-threatening, whereas malignant brain tumors are cancerous and can quickly invade and damage tissue.
Types and Grades of Brain Tumors
Brain tumors can be divided into two major categories: Primary brain tumors, which originate in the brain, and secondary (metastatic) brain tumors, which originate elsewhere in the body. Primary brain tumors can be subdivided into a variety of different types, including meningiomas, which are the most common type of benign brain tumors; glioblastoma, which is the most common malignant form; ependymomas, germinomas, and choroid plexus tumors, which are less aggressive tumors; and pituitary adenomas, which are slow-growing noncancerous tumors.
When determining the best course of treatment for a patient, doctors will assign a grade to the tumor: Grade 1 tumors are the least aggressive and most easily treated, while Grade 4 tumors are more difficult to treat.
Symptoms of a Brain Tumor
The symptoms of a brain tumor can vary, depending on where it is located and its severity. Common symptoms include headaches, nausea and vomiting, changes in speech, vision, or hearing, personality changes, trouble concentrating, seizures, balance or coordination issues, and fatigue. These symptoms can also be indicative of other, less severe conditions, so it is important to consult an experienced medical professional if any of these are present.
Causes of a Brain Tumor
The exact cause of brain tumors is unclear; however, researchers believe they are linked to environmental and genetic factors. Exposure to certain chemicals, radiation, and viruses can increase the risk of developing a brain tumor. Additionally, people with a family history of brain tumors are more likely to develop one than those without a family history.
Treating Brain Tumors
Treatment of brain tumors depends heavily on their type, grade, and location. Treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted-drug therapy. In some cases, more than one of these treatments may be necessary. Additionally, symptoms related to the tumor can be managed with medication or procedures.
Brain tumors require careful monitoring and treatment. It is important to be aware of the symptoms of a brain tumor and to consult a qualified medical professional if any of the symptoms are present. With proper diagnosis and treatment, it is possible for patients to manage the impact of brain tumors on their lives.