A tumour is an abnormal growth of cells. Tumours can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
Benign tumours are non-cancerous, while malignant tumours are cancerous. The main types of tumours are:
- Benign tumours. These are non-cancerous and do not spread.
- Malignant tumours. These are cancerous and can spread to other parts of the body.
Brain tumours can affect people of all ages, however they are more common in children, adolescents and young adults, and more common in males than females.
What is the difference between a brain tumour and a brain tumour?
There are many types of brain tumours, and the two main types are:
- Primary brain tumours (also known as primary malignant brain tumours). This is a cancerous tumour that arises from the brain or spinal cord.
- Secondary brain tumours (also known as metastatic brain tumours). These tumours arise from cancerous tumours elsewhere in the body.
Brain tumours are classified according to the type of cell that grows out of control. Brain tumours are further classified into four types:
- Germ cell tumours. These tumours are most commonly seen in children. Most are benign and are treated with surgery. About 10% of these tumours are malignant and are treated with chemotherapy.
- Ependymal tumours. These tumours are seen most commonly in children, and are benign.
- Glial tumours. These tumours are seen most commonly in children. They are benign and are treated with surgery.
- Other tumours. These tumours are rare. They are mainly benign, but can be malignant.
What are the symptoms of a brain tumour?
The symptoms of a brain tumours vary depending upon the type of tumour, the tumour’s location, the size of the tumour and the age of the person affected.
Brain tumours can cause symptoms that are similar to the symptoms of other conditions. It is important that you talk to your doctor about your symptoms so that your doctor can make a diagnosis.
Symptoms of a brain tumour can include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Nausea and vomiting
- Personality changes
Brain tumours can also affect the body in other ways. For example, tumours can cause:
- Changes in vision
- Hearing loss
- Balance problems
- Speech and language difficulties
- Cognitive problems
How are brain tumours diagnosed?
To diagnose a brain tumour, your doctor will do a physical examination and will ask about your medical history and symptoms. They will also do a neurological exam, a brain scan and a brain biopsy.
To do a neurological exam, your doctor will touch your skin with their fingers to check for any numbness or weakness. They will also check your reflexes and muscle tone.
Your doctor may use a CT scan (computed tomography) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to see inside your brain and spinal cord. They may also do a bone scan to check for any bone problems.
To do a brain biopsy, your doctor will use a needle to remove a small piece of tissue from the tumour. This will be checked under a microscope to see if cancerous cells are present.
How are brain tumours treated?
The treatment for a brain tumour depends on the type of brain tumour and the age of the person affected.
Your treatment will also depend on how large the tumour is and if you have other health conditions. You will also be treated according to how the tumour is affecting your body.
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to treat cancer. Chemotherapy is used to treat brain tumours. Chemotherapy drugs enter the bloodstream, travel through the body and reach the brain tumour.
You will usually be given chemotherapy before surgery. Chemotherapy is often given as a combination of drugs. This is because if one drug stops working, a different drug may still be effective.
Chemotherapy is given in cycles. You will have a treatment period followed by a rest period. During your treatment period, you will have chemotherapy over a period of several weeks. You will then have a rest period where you are not treated with chemotherapy.
Your doctor will give you a treatment plan that is tailored to your individual needs.
Surgery is used to remove the tumour. Surgery is usually done after chemotherapy. It is often done in a hospital so that you can be monitored during your treatment.
Surgery is used to remove the tumour and some of the surrounding tissue. It is often done to remove a tumour that has grown into the brain. This is called a craniotomy.
Surgery is used to treat some brain tumours where the tumour is in an area of the brain that is not being used by the brain.
Surgery can also be used to remove an area of a tumour that is causing pressure on the brain. This is called a craniectomy.
There are different types of surgery that can be used for a brain tumour. For example:
- Brain surgery. This is surgery that is done to remove the tumour and a small area of tissue around the tumour.
- Craniotomy. This is surgery where the tumour and a small area of tissue around the tumour is removed.
Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy rays (known as x-rays) to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy is often used to treat brain tumours.
Radiation therapy is given in two ways.
External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) uses a machine to deliver high-energy x-rays to the tumour. EBRT is often used to treat large tumours in the brain that are causing pressure on the surrounding tissue.
Internal radiation therapy (brachytherapy) uses radioactive material to treat a brain tumour. This is usually used to treat tumours that have spread to the brain.
What is the long-term outlook?
The outlook for people with brain tumours depends on the type of brain tumour, the type of treatment used and the age of the person affected.
The outlook for children with brain tumours depends on the type of tumour.
The outlook for adults with brain tumours depends on the type of tumour and whether the tumour is malignant.
If you have a brain tumour, you might have:
- Radiation therapy
- Supportive care
How can I prevent a brain tumour?
The best way to prevent a brain tumour is to avoid things that can cause cancer, such as smoking.
In the UK, the main cause of brain tumours is exposure to radiation.
The best way to prevent exposure to radiation is to stay at home after a nuclear accident or nuclear power plant accident.
You can check the Radiation Information Service website for details of what to do if you are in an area that may have been affected by a nuclear accident.
You should also avoid exposure to radiation from cosmic radiation and solar radiation.
You can check the UK’s Radiation Information Service website for details about how to protect yourself from these sources of radiation.
Brain tumours are a common type of cancer that can affect anyone. There are many types of brain tumours, some of which are benign and some of which are malignant.
Symptoms of a brain tumour vary depending on the type of tumour, the location of the tumour and the age of the person affected. Treatment depends on the age of the affected person, the type of brain tumour and the size of the tumour.
Being able to recognise the symptoms of a possible brain tumour can help you get the treatment you need as early as possible.
A brain tumour can have a devastating impact on the life of the person affected.
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