A brain tumor is an abnormal growth of cells in the brain. The tumor can develop in the brain tissue itself or in the membranes that cover the brain, or it can arise from other parts of the body and spread to the brain.
Not all brain tumors are cancerous, or malignant, which means they can grow and spread quickly through the brain or even to other parts of the body. In fact, most brain tumors are benign. Benign tumors do not contain cancer cells and typically grow slowly. They usually do not invade surrounding tissue or spread to other parts of the body, but they can cause problems if they grow large enough to press on or damage nearby structures in the brain.
In many cases, the exact cause of a brain tumor is not known, but there are certain risk factors that have been associated with the development of brain tumors. Some possible causes and risk factors include:
- Genetic conditions, such as neurofibromatosis, tuberous sclerosis, and Li-Fraumeni syndrome
- Family history
- Sex: Some types of brain tumors are more common in men than women, and vice versa.
- Age: Though they can occur at any age, brain tumors are more common in older adults.
- Immune system disorders: People with certain immune system disorders, such as HIV/AIDS, may have an increased risk of brain tumors.
- Exposure to radiation, such as radiation therapy for cancer or nuclear fallout
- Environmental factors, such as exposure to certain chemicals or toxins like pesticides or solvents
The signs and symptoms of a brain tumor can vary depending on the type, size, and location of the tumor. Some of the first signs of a brain tumor may include:
- Headaches: persistent or worsening headaches that may be accompanied by nausea or vomiting.
- Blurred or double vision or a loss of peripheral vision
- Memory problems or confusion
- Changes in personality or behavior
- Weakness or numbness, typically on one side of the body
- Speech/language difficulties
- Hearing loss or ringing in the ears
- Difficulty with coordination, balance, or walking
Many of these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions and may not necessarily be indicative of a brain tumor. Consult your healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis.
Of course, most headaches do not indicate a brain tumor. However, about half of those who have been diagnosed with a brain tumor reported headaches as one of their symptoms. Headaches caused by a brain tumor may be described as:
- Dull or aching pain that is often described as persistent and constant.
- Throbbing or pulsating pain that is typically felt on one side of the head.
- Pain that gets worse over time and does not respond to over-the-counter pain medications.
- Pain that is accompanied by other symptoms, such as nausea or vomiting.
If you are experiencing persistent headaches or any other symptoms that concern you, discuss these with a trusted medical provider.
What are the treatment options for brain tumors?
The treatment options for brain tumors depend on several factors, including the type, size, and location of the tumor, as well as the patient’s age and overall health. In some cases, a combination of treatments may be used to achieve the best possible outcome. The main treatment options for brain tumors include:
If a benign brain tumor is small and not causing symptoms, it may be monitored with regular imaging studies, such as MRI or CT scans, to track its growth and determine if treatment is necessary.
Surgery is often the first line of treatment for brain tumors. Depending on the location and size of the tumor, the surgeon may remove all or part of the tumor. In some cases, surgery may not be possible if the tumor is in a sensitive area of the brain.
Stereotactic radiosurgery is a minimally invasive procedure that uses multiple beams of radiation to deliver a high dose of radiation to the tumor while minimizing exposure to the surrounding healthy tissue.
- Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to kill cancer cells. It may be used after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells or as the main treatment option for tumors that cannot be removed with surgery.
- Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It is often used in combination with radiation therapy or as a treatment option for tumors that cannot be removed with surgery.
- Targeted therapy uses drugs to target specific molecules in cancer cells. It is often used for tumors that have certain genetic mutations.
Also called palliative care or symptom management, supportive care aims to improve the quality of life of cancer patients by addressing their symptoms, such as pain, fatigue, nausea, and depression, as well as any side effects of cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Supportive care can also help patients and their families cope with the emotional and psychological impact of cancer.
Supportive care can include a range of interventions, such as medication for pain management or symptom relief, dietary counseling, physical therapy, and counseling or psychological support.
Why Choose NGHS
Northeast Georgia Medical Center is northeast Georgia’s preferred hospital for providing comprehensive neurological patient care. With a team of expert physicians and state-of-the-art facilities, we provide a broad range of diagnostic and treatment services for patients with neurological disorders. Patients with cancerous brain tumors can experience peace of mind knowing they are cared for by a multidisciplinary healthcare team, with access to in-house cancer services, rehabilitation, and palliative care. Excellent care isn’t far from home; schedule an appointment with an NGHS provider today.