Brain cancer or brain tumour is an abnormal cell growth inside the brain. Some tumours are non-cancerous (benign) and some are cancerous (malignant). The tumour can either develop inside the brain itself or develop in other parts of the body and travel to the brain through blood vessels. Regardless of the development, the severity of a brain tumour, however, depends on its ability to grow. The growth and location of the tumour impact the functioning of the nervous system and the entire body.
Types of Brain Cancer
Depending on the origin and growth rate, brain tumours are of the following types:
- Primary Brain Tumours: Tumours that develop within the brain are called primary brain tumours. Primary brain tumours are usually benign and remained localized in the cells. Depending on the type of brain cell affected, these tumours are further classified into different types as gliomas, meningiomas, pituitary adenomas, vestibular schwannomas, or medulloblastoma.
- Secondary Brain Tumours: Tumours that travel to the brain from other body organs are called secondary brain tumours. Secondary brain tumours are usually malignant and spread rapidly throughout the body.
The symptoms of brain cancer may not be apparent in the beginning and may even be confusing. These confusing symptoms depend on the type of cells affected in the brain and may vary in patients. The common symptoms, however, include
- Reduced mental capacity.
- Behavioral and emotional changes.
- Impaired speech and judgment.
- Impaired sense of smell.
- Memory loss.
- Lack of recognition.
- Difficulty speaking.
- Difficulty swallowing.
- Paralysis on one side of the body.
- Persistent headache.
- Difficulty writing.
- Spatial disorders.
- Uncoordinated gait.
- Difficulty hearing.
- Loss of vision.
The exact cause of brain cancer is unknown. The possible causes, however, include:
- Family history.
- Exposure to harmful chemicals.
- History of radiation therapy to the brain.
- HIV infection.
Brain cancer is diagnosed by:
- Physical examination: Firstly, a physical examination is conducted to evaluate the patient’s condition. The doctor will also conduct neurological examinations such as evaluating vision, hearing, coordination, balance, and reflexes to gauge the condition. If the doctor suspects a tumour, additional tests will be conducted.
- Imaging tests: Various tests such as X-rays, CT scan, or MRIs confirms the appearance, size, and location of cancer.
- Biopsy: A final biopsy test will be conducted in which a small tissue from the brain will be retrieved to confirm the presence of cancer.
The treatment for brain cancer is designed according to the patient’s condition. The treatment is planned according to the size, type, location of the tumour and age of the patient. The main treatment includes surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. The doctor may also combine these therapies to suit the patient’s needs.
- Surgery: Surgery removes the tumour completely from the brain along with some surrounding healthy tissues. The surgery also ensures that normal brain functions are not affected.
- Radiation therapy: In this procedure, high energy X-ray beams are used to destroy tumour cells. These high-grade beams reduce damage to the adjacent tissues and also reduce other treatment-related complications.
- Chemotherapy: Anti-cancer drugs are administered to the patient to kill cancer cells. This can either be administered before or after the surgery or as a part of palliative care.