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Brain Tumor: Types, symptoms, causes, risks and diagnosis

Team AckoSept 7, 2022

Did you know that most Brain Tumors are not cancerous? That being said, cancerous or non-cancerous tumorous growths can damage nearby nerves, tissues and blood vessels, and affect brain function. Read ahead to know different types of Brain Tumors, their symptoms, causes, risks, diagnosis methods and treatments.

Brain Tumor

What is a Brain tumor?

A Brain Tumor is an uncontrolled growth of cells in and around the brain. Since the skull is a closed space and also houses the brain, any abnormal growth can have adverse consequences. Brain Tumors can either be non-cancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant).

Another classification of Brain Tumors is primary and secondary.

  • Primary Brain Tumors: These types of Brain Tumors generally begin growing from the brain and, in most cases, are benign.

  • Secondary Brain Tumors: These types of Brain Tumors generally originate from another part of the body and spread to the brain.

Types of Brain Tumors

The common benign Brain Tumors include the following.

  • Craniopharyngiomas: These tumors typically develop in the pituitary gland. Since they are located in such a sensitive spot, they are sometimes difficult to surgically remove.

  • Chordomas: These types of tumors generally originate in between the bottom of the spine and the base of the skull.  They usually develop slowly and are non-cancerous more often than not.

  • Glomus jugulare: These tumors generally develop just above the jugular vein (near the neck region). They’re the most prevalent variant of glomus tumor.

  • Gangliomas, gangliocytomas, and anaplastic gangliogliomas: These tumours usually arise from the nerve cells and are uncommon.

  • Meningiomas: These start growing from the meninges. Meninges are the tissues that shield your brain and spinal cord. Their growth is usually slow and, in rare cases, is cancerous.

  • Pineocytomas: These tumors develop on the pineal gland. The pineal gland is the gland responsible for producing a hormone called melatonin.

  • Schwannomas: Such tumors start growing in the Schwann cells. These cells are situated in the peripheral nervous system and facilitate nerve impulses.

  • Pituitary adenomas: As its name suggests, these tumors develop in the pituitary gland. This gland is responsible for the production and regulation of hormones in the body.

The common malignant tumors include the following.

  • Astrocytoma: These tumors typically develop in a type of glial cell called astrocytes. Although they grow in various parts of the brain, in most cases, they start developing in the cerebrum.

  • Ependymomas: These tumors generally start growing from the ependymal cells.

  • Glioblastoma (GBM): These tumors start developing in glial cells called astrocytes. 

  • Oligodendroglioma: These rare types of tumors start growing in cells that make myelin.

  • Medulloblastoma: These are fast-growing types of tumors that start developing from the base of the skull and are more commonly found in children.

Signs and symptoms of Brain Tumors

The most common Brain Tumor symptoms include the following.

  • Vision problems

  • Hearing issues

  • Seizures.

  • Confusion

  • Difficulty in speaking and comprehension

  • Changes in personality

  • Headaches

  • Localised weakness or paralysis

  • Difficulty in maintaining proper balance

  • Facial numbness or tingling

  • Nausea

Causes of Brain Tumor

Research has indicated that Brain Tumors start developing when the chromosomes of certain cells get damaged. The chromosomes are responsible for giving instructions to the cells. So, when they get altered, it causes the cells to not die and keep multiplying. This uncontrolled multiplication and immortality of cells is what accumulates and forms tumors. The exact cause of this occurrence in nature is still unknown. However, these abnormalities can be triggered by exposure to certain stimuli as well.

How to diagnose Brain Tumor

Brain Tumors are usually diagnosed using the following tests. 

Brain Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or Computed Tomography (CT) scan: MRI is the most recommended imaging test to detect Brain Tumors. An alternative for this test is a CT scan. Both these tests make use of a contrast agent to identify the size and position of tumors. During these imaging tests, other surrounding organs may also be examined to check for spread.

Spinal tap (lumbar puncture): In this procedure, a slender needle is used to take out cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from the regions surrounding the spine. Later, these samples are taken to a lab to determine if tumorous cells have developed in the meninges.

Biopsy: After the existence of a tumor is confirmed, a biopsy is done to check if the tumor is cancerous or not. During this procedure, a sample of the tumor is extracted from the body and taken to a lab for testing.

Specialised tests: These tests are used to detect the presence of substances called tumor markers and other gene abnormalities. Based on the result, doctors can identify the extent of tumor development.

Treatment procedures for Brain Tumors

The following are the most popular Brain Tumor treatment procedures.

  • Brain surgery (craniotomy): Whenever possible, Brain Tumors are typically surgically removed. Sometimes these procedures are performed while the patient is wide awake to avoid critical areas of the brain from getting affected.

  • Radiation therapy: When X-rays are administered in high doses, it causes the death of the tumorous cells or the shrinking of the tumor.

  • Radiosurgery: This procedure makes use of high-powered and focused beams to destroy a tumor. 

  • Brachytherapy: In this procedure, radioactive implants are surgically inserted in the tumour region to destroy the cancerous growth. 

  • Chemotherapy: In this form of treatment, anticancer drugs are administered to kill cancer cells throughout the body, including the brain. It is usually recommended after surgery to kill any remaining cancerous cells.

  • Immunotherapy: This therapy makes use of your body’s natural defence mechanism to get rid of cancer cells. So, it only involves the stimulation of your immune system for better functioning.

  • Targeted therapy: As its name suggests, this form of treatment only targets cancer cells and does not affect healthy cells. This therapy is sometimes used as an alternative to chemotherapy.

Prevention of Brian Tumors

Unfortunately, there is no prevention method to avoid developing Brain Tumors. However, if a close relative has already suffered from this condition, it is better to be watchful and vigilant for early signs and symptoms in your body. That way, you can get treatment at the earliest. Also, there are certain risk factors (mentioned in the next section) that you can avoid to prevent this condition from developing. 

Risk factors

The following are some of the common risk factors for developing Brain Tumors.

  • Age: The risk of developing cancerous tumors (including Brain Tumors) grows higher with age.

  • Family history: Brain Tumor is a hereditary condition. So, your likelihood of developing it increases if a close family member has already had the condition before.

  • Radiation exposure: Ionising radiation exposure and exposure to nuclear power plants are known to trigger tumorous growths in the brain and other parts of the body.

  • Exposure to certain chemicals: People who work around cancer-causing chemicals are at a high risk of developing brain and other tumors.

Frequently asked questions

In this section, we will answer some of the most frequently asked questions regarding Brain Tumors.

What are the common symptoms of Brain Tumor?

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Common Brain Tumor symptoms include the following.

  • Seizures.

  • Confusion

  • Difficulty in speaking and comprehension

  • Changes in personality

  • Headaches

  • Localised weakness or paralysis

  • Nausea

Are there any risks associated with undergoing a brain biopsy?

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Yes, there are a few risks associated with undergoing a brain biopsy. They include the following.

  • Seizure

  • Infection

  • Coma

  • Stroke

Can a Brain Tumor cause death?

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Yes, in certain cases Brain Tumor can cause death. More often than not, this condition is treatable and its survivability rate is generally high.

What are the first signs of Brain Tumor?

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Usually, the first sign of having a Brain Tumor is developing seizures. Following this, you may develop other symptoms like nausea, disorientation and difficulty to speak.

Reference:

Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. It is based on several secondary sources on the internet. As this content piece is not vetted by a medical professional, please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.

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