Brain cancer is a cancerous tumor of the brain. Whether located in the brain or elsewhere in the body, a tumor is made up of a mass of cells that multiply on their own and uncontrolled. Tumors can be benign or malignant.
Benign brain tumors are abnormal accumulations of cells that multiply slowly and often remain isolated from surrounding normal brain tissue. These tumors grow slowly, do not spread to other parts of the brain, and are usually easier to excise than malignant tumors. Malignant tumors multiply and grow rapidly. It is difficult to delineate these tumors from the surrounding normal brain tissue. For this reason, it is difficult to excise them completely without damaging the surrounding brain tissue.
Benign and malignant tumors can be recovered by Recovery Groups, depending on the type of cells they originate from.
Benign tumors can be classified as follows:
- chordomas, the origin of which lies in embryonic cells of the spinal cord or the base of the cranial nerve;
- hemangioblastomas, which start in the blood vessels;
- meningiomas, starting in the membrane covering the brain;
- osteomas, in the bones of the skull;
- pinealomas, in the pineal gland;
- pituitary adenomas, in the pituitary gland;
- schwannomas, in the cells that surround the nerves.
Some types of tumors, such as meningiomas (originating in the meninges, the lining surrounding the brain) or germ cell tumors, can be benign in some cases and malignant in others.
The exact cause of cancer remains unknown. A primary brain tumor is a cancer of the brain that starts in the brain itself. It can spread to surrounding areas of the brain and destroy them. Cancer of the breast, lung, skin, or blood cells (leukemia or lymphoma) can also spread ( metastasize ) to the brain, causing metastatic brain cancer. These cancer cells can then multiply in a single region or several parts of the brain.
Some of the known risk factors for brain cancer include:
- a history of radiation to the head;
- immunosuppression (e.g., people taking drugs that weaken the immune system, people with HIV, AIDS);
- exposure to vinyl chloride (a chemical used in the manufacture of plastics.
Symptoms And Complications
Brain cancer causes symptoms when it puts pressure on the brain or destroys brain tissue. Signs depend on the position and size of the tumor and how quickly it is growing.
Although headaches are often a symptom of brain cancer, it is important to remember that most headaches are not caused by cancer but are caused by less serious conditions like migraine or blood pressure. . Headaches from a brain tumor are often severe, associated with nausea and vomiting, and are often more severe at the start of the day. They can last a long time or occur intermittently.
Other symptoms include:
- vision disturbances such as double vision;
- coordination disorders;
- weakness or numbness on one side of the body;
- changes in mood, senses, personality, or feelings;
- memory impairment;
- confusion or difficulty concentrating.
The presence of the above symptoms could lead a doctor to suspect brain cancer. A computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the first examination to be performed to properly diagnose brain cancer, whatever the type. These specialized x-ray exams can detect many types of brain tumors and determine their location and size precisely. However, they do not determine whether the tumor is cancerous or not.
A biopsy should be taken to determine if the tumor is cancerous. To do this, a sample of the tumor is taken during surgery. If the tumor is located too deep in the brain, surgeons may use a stereotaxic biopsy or three-dimensional needle placement technique.
This technique involves using an MRI to create a three-dimensional image of the brain, which is then used to guide a needle contained in a special case to the appropriate region of the brain. Tumor cells are aspirated and collected in the needle for analysis. Once collected, the biopsy sample is analyzed using microscopes and special chemicals to determine the tumor type. It usually takes some days to get the results of a biopsy.
Cells from brain tumors can sometimes be collected from cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), a special fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The CSF is removed using a fine needle inserted into the lower part of the back, under local anesthesia; this is called a lumbar puncture.
This procedure cannot be performed when too much pressure builds up in the brain. This is because the change in brain pressure resulting from the puncture could cause part of the brain tissue to be aspirated towards the skull base, leading to serious complications.
Treatment and Prevention
Brain cancers are usually treated with a combined strategy of surgery, chemotherapy (anticancer drugs), and radiation, along with the administration of drugs to control symptoms.
Large doses of steroids are frequently administered during the radiation period to decrease the swelling caused by the tumor. This will often help relieve all or at least some of the symptoms but will not affect the tumor itself. Anticonvulsant drugs can be used to prevent seizures.
Surgery is done to remove as much of the cancerous tissue as possible. Some brain cancers are located in areas surgeons cannot reach without damaging other important parts of the brain. In these cases, it is often superior not to operate on the patient. Even when surgery does not completely excise the tumor, it can shrink the size and relieve some of the symptoms, making other treatments more effective.
Surgery is usually followed by radiation and chemotherapy. These procedures will most of the time not cure brain cancer, but they will keep the tumor under control for months.