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Brain Cancer 

Overview of Brain Cancer

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Brain cancer is the disease of the brain where the abnormal cells grow to form a mass (tumor), which interferes with the functions of the brain like muscle control, sensation, memory and others. All tumors are not cancerous. Cancerous tumors are malignant and spread uncontrollably overpowering the healthy cells. They even take nutrients, blood and space from the healthy cells. Benign tumors are less serious than malignant tumors but still cause problems to the brain. Brain tumor is of two types.

  • Primary brain tumor: This originates in the brain and grows within the limited space in the skull.
  • Secondary brain tumor: This is also called as metastatic brain tumor and the tumor cells formed would have migrated from other parts of the body. Metastatic brain tumor indicates advanced stage of the of disease condition.

Occurence of brain cancer in different groups: Brain cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer in persons who are less than 35 years of age. Studies have indicated that the incidence rates of brain cancer have increased among the elderly and the children also.1,2

The annual incidence of primary brain tumor ranges from 7 to 19.1 cases per 100,000 populations. Brain tumors are the second most common form of cancer seen in children, comprising 15–25% of all pediatric malignancies.3 It is also seen that 10–15% of people suffer from metastatic brain tumor.4
Brain tumors can occur to anybody without any differentiation between race and gender. Metastatic brain cancers have the greatest risk when compared to other types of cancers. Males have a 0.66% lifetime risk of suffering from primary malignant brain tumor when compared to females who have 0.54% lifetime risk.5
Recent epidemiological studies have linked the occurrence of brain tumors to the use of cellular phones.6

 

Signs and Symptoms of Brain Cancer

Symptoms of brain cancer

 

Causes and Risk Factors of Brain Cancer

The exact cause of brain tumor is not known.

Following are some causes and risk factors.

  • Individual cell mutations
  • Tumors originating from acoustic neuroma and meningioma
  • Inherited diseases like neurofibromatosis, tuberousclerosis, retinoblastoma, multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1, Von Hippel-Lindau disease
  • Exposure to vinyl chloride, a chemical, which is present in the tobacco smoke and is used in the manufacture of plastic products, car parts, furnitures etc.
     

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Diagnosis of Brain Cancer

Brain tumor is diagnosed based on the symptoms.1

A detailed medical history, physical examination and neurological examination are conducted to assess the symptoms.

Based on this, a neurologist may suggest other diagnostic tests like:

  • CT scan or computed tomography to know about the brain abnormalities

  • MRI scan or magnetic resonance imaging to identify the tumors in the bones of the skull

  • EEG or electroencephalography to measure the electrical activity in the brain

  • X-ray done to know the deformities of the brain

  • Brain scan to detect the abnormal cells in the brain

  • MEG scan or magnetoencephalography to measure the magnetic fields produced by nerve cells and their electric current

  • Digital holography is done to view the complete three-dimensional map of the tumor and surrounding the brain structures.

These tests help the physician to know the presence of tumor. Later, biopsy is conducted to know the kind of cells it contains.
 

 

 

 

Management of Brain Cancer

Primary brain tumor is difficult to manage, as it may occur without any cause.

Secondary brain tumor can be managed by:

  • Good nutritional diet rich in fiber.
  • Avoid excessive use of alcohol.
  • Avoid excessive exposure to sun.
  • Occupational therapy can be opted by patients and families to learn in approaching daily tasks.
  • Physical therapy helps in the patients to maintain balance, express thoughts, speaking and swallowing.
  • Those with incurable brain tumor, hospice care (a program or facility that provides medical and emotional support) may be preferred who can provide supportive environment to help the patients to deal with the pain.

 

Treatment of brain cancer
A physician may recommend treatment based on the diagnosis.

Written by: Healthplus24 team
Date last updated: October 01, 2012