A brain tumour is a growth that develops in the brain. It can develop from a tumour that started in another part of the body (such as the skin, liver, breast or lung) or can be a completely new (malignant) tumour.
A brain tumour can be:
- Benign (non-cancerous)
- Malignant (cancerous)
- Pilocytic astrocytoma
- Choroid plexus carcinoma
- Pituitary adenoma
- Craniopharyngioma (of the pineal gland)
- Glioma (malignant)
There are many different types of brain tumour. Some tumours start in the brain and spread to other parts of the body.
The type of brain tumour you have is a clinical diagnosis only. The type of tumour we offer is based on the location of the tumour in the brain.
Symptoms of a brain tumour
Symptoms of a brain tumour depend on where the tumour is in the brain. Symptoms of a tumour that has spread to the brain can include:
- Loss of coordination
- Impaired judgement
- Loss of sensation or feeling in the arms and legs
- Muscle weakness in part of the body
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty speaking
- Loss of vision in one eye
- Hearing loss
- Double vision
- Personality changes
- Severe headaches
- Changes in mood
- Severe mood swings
- Memory loss
- Difficulty concentrating
How is a brain tumour diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and examine you. They will ask you about your medical history and family history.
If there is no obvious cause of the tumour, your doctor will recommend further tests.
Some of the tests a doctor may recommend include:
- MRI scan of the brain to confirm the diagnosis and identify the type of tumour
- Biopsy (taking a sample of tissue)
- Blood tests including a complete blood count (C
), Blood biochemistry (including liver and kidney function tests), and a blood clotting test (to check you are not bleeding too much)
- X-ray (to locate the tumour)
- CT scan (to locate the tumour)
- PET scan (to locate the tumour)
- Bone scan (to locate the tumour)
- Ultrasound scan (to locate the tumour)
- Chest X-ray (to locate the tumour)
- Chest MRI scan (to locate the tumour)
How is a brain tumour treated?
The treatment of a brain tumour depends on the type of tumour. It also depends on how far the tumour has spread. Treatments for brain tumours include:
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted therapy
The main treatment for a brain tumour is surgery. Your doctor will decide on the type of surgery and the extent of the operation.
In some cases, the surgeon may be able to remove the tumour without having to remove other parts of the brain.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. It may be used to treat brain tumours that have spread to other parts of the body.
Chemotherapy may be used to treat brain tumours that have spread to other parts of the body. Chemotherapy drugs may be given into a vein (IV) or taken as tablets.
Targeted therapy is a type of treatment for cancer. It uses drugs or other substances to find and attack cancer cells without harming normal cells.
Immunotherapy is a type of treatment for cancer. It uses medicines to help your body’s own immune system to fight the cancer.
How can a brain tumour be prevented?
You can reduce your risk of developing a brain tumour by:
- Eating a healthy diet
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- Avoiding tobacco use
- Limiting alcohol use
- Being physically active
- Maintaining a moderate body temperature
- Taking all medicines as prescribed
Outlook of a brain tumour
The outlook for a brain tumour depends on whether the tumour has spread to other parts of the body, the type of tumour and its grade.
The survival rate for people with a brain tumour depends on the type of tumour, its grade and the size of the tumour.
Survival rates for brain tumours vary depending on the type of tumour and the grade. It’s important to note that survival rates are for people who are diagnosed with a brain tumour.
The survival rates for different types of brain tumour are as follows:
- Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM)
- Anaplastic astrocytoma
- Anaplastic oligodendroglioma
- Anaplastic ependymoma
- Anaplastic mixed glioma
- Anaplastic oligodendroglioma (anaplastic anaplastic astrocytoma)
- Anaplastic oligodendroglioma (anaplastic oligodendroglioma)
Survival rates are based on statistics from the National Cancer Institute.
Is a brain tumour curable?
In most cases, a brain tumour is curable.
If the tumour is only in one part of the brain, it’s possible to remove it completely. However, if the tumour has spread (metastasised) to other parts of the body, the outlook is much worse.
In these cases, the tumour is often fatal.
Is a brain tumour preventable?
A brain tumour is a preventable condition. It can be prevented by avoiding tobacco use. Other things that can help prevent the spread of a brain tumour are:
- Using contraception
- Avoiding long-term use of steroidal hormones
- Having a healthy body weight and eating a healthy diet
- Not smoking
What’s the takeaway?
A brain tumour is a serious condition. It can cause symptoms such as headaches, changes in personality, loss of sensation or feeling in the limbs, and seizures.
If you have a brain tumour, your outlook depends on the type of tumour, its grade and the extent of the tumour.
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