Our brain is a powerful organ capable of performing a multitude of functions ranging from thinking to walking. Due to its huge importance, issues with our brain’s health can turn our world upside down! One such problem is a brain tumor.
If you are someone who has been recently diagnosed with a brain tumor, contacting a qualified neurologist or a neuro-oncologist can provide you with information about your condition and the different treatment options for it.
To know more about brain tumor and how it occurs. Read below.
What is a Brain Tumor?
A brain tumor can be defined as a condition where the cells inside the brain or skull begin to divide uncontrollably in an abnormal way. Around 120 different types of brain tumors have been recorded till now. Most of them can be successfully treated. The advent of cutting-edge treatments has helped in improving the life expectancy and quality of life for many brain tumor patients.
Types of Brain Tumors and Grading
Brain tumors can be of two types:
- Primary tumors: These tumors originate from the brain’s tissues or surroundings. They can be further divided into glial which comprise glial cells and non-glial which develop in or on the brain structures including blood vessels, glands, and nerves. Primary tumors can be either benign or malignant.
- Metastatic(secondary) brain tumors: These tumors are considered cancerous and they originate elsewhere in the body, like the lungs or breast. Metastatic tumors usually travel to the brain through the blood.
As per WHO, the grading for brain tumors is usually done on the basis of how fast the tumor is growing or likely to grow back after treating it.
||Low grade, Can be treated with surgery, long-term survival
||Low grade, Can invade nearby tissues, may reoccur as a higher grade
||Actively dividing abnormal cells, Malignant
||High grade, the tumor spreads into nearby areas, has a tendency to reoccur as a higher grade
||Most malignant, aggressively growing cells
||Easily spreads to the nearby areas, cells form blood vessels for growth
Besides the source of origin, brain tumors can also be categorized into
1. Benign brain tumor: This tumor grows slowly and is low grade (grade I or II). Though it rarely spreads, the tumor can be life-threatening if present in a vital location of the brain. Some of the benign brain tumors are
Meingiomais one of the most common primary brain tumors that arise from the meninges which are the outer layers of the brain. Mostly slow growing, this is more common in women and accounts for about 30% of all brain tumors.
Pituitary adenoma is a common pituitary tumor that originates in the pituitary gland tissues. It grows slowly and can lead to several endocrinological and vision problems. However, Pituitary adenoma can be treated with medicines and surgery.
Schwannoma is a benign brain tumor that arises from the nerve cells that provide electrical insulation to the nerves. Acoustic neuromas are one of the most common schwannomas that usually originate from the 8th cranial nerve. These are commonly found in middle-aged adults and can often lead to hearing loss.
2. Malignant brain tumor: This tumor grows fast and can spread to the surrounding areas of the brain. These are usually high-grade (grade III or grade IV) and have a high chance of growing back after treatment. Malignant brain tumors could be primary or metastatic.
Some malignant brain tumors are
Astrocytomas account for around half of all spinal cord and primary brain tumors. These are commonly found in the cerebrum and can affect people of all ages. In children, these are usually low-grade but in adults, astrocytomas are high-grade tumors.
Medulloblastomas originate in the cerebellum and are most commonly found in children. Though high-grade, these tumors respond to treatments like chemotherapy and radiation.
Ependymomas comprise about 2-3% of all brain tumors. These arise from the ependymal cells that line the ventricular system.
Why does a Brain Tumor occur?
Though researchers do not know the exact cause of a brain tumor, it is clear that the abnormal behavior of cancer cells can be attributed to genetic changes. The cell’s DNA contains instructions telling them when to divide and when to stop. However, because of the changes in the DNA, the information given to the cell changes thereby leading to uncontrollable growth and division.
Which factors increase the risk of a Brain Tumor?
Certain risk factors can increase your chances of developing a brain tumor. These include
- Age: The chances of getting a brain tumor increase as we grow older. Though people of all age groups can get brain tumors, the risk is higher in individuals between the ages of 85-89 years.
- Exposure to radiation can lead to brain tumors as observed in a small percentage of patients. Some types of brain tumors are more common in people who had received radiation therapy previously. The risk from CT scans and X-rays is minor and your doctors will try to keep your exposure to radiation at the lowest.
- Though rare, sometimes genetic conditions that are passed down from the parent to the child can also lead to brain tumors. These include neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1 gene), tuberous sclerosis complex, neurofibromatosis type 2, Gorlin syndrome, and Turcot syndrome. Thus, family history should also be studied. However, about 5-10% of brain tumor patients had a family history of it.
Common myths about Brain Tumors busted
When you begin searching for information about brain tumors, you will come across several myths that can be quite misleading. Here we have debunked some of them:
Myth 1: Using mobile phones can cause brain tumors
There is no research to suggest a direct link between brain tumors and mobile usage. However, excessive use of mobiles should be avoided as it can lead to other health problems.
Myth 2: Only adults can get brain tumors
Brain tumors can also occur in children and are not restricted to only adults.
Myth 3: Blurred visions and headaches are a sign of a brain tumor
A headache is not necessarily an indicator of a brain tumor. There could be several reasons behind headaches and blurred vision.
Avail Brain Tumor Treatment in Different Countries
Knowing that you or your loved one has a brain tumor can seem scary. But, it doesn’t have to be. Around two-thirds of brain tumors are benign. Still, getting the right treatment from an experienced doctor at an accredited hospital is crucial to combat this condition.
Previously thought to be unbeatable, improvements in diagnostics and treatment approaches like radiation and surgery have increased the survival rates for brain tumor patients.