Brain tumors are generally masses or abnormal growth of cells within or close to the brain. There are several different types of brain tumors including benign (noncancerous) & malignant (cancerous). Brain tumors which originate in the brain are known as primary brain tumors while cancers originating in other parts of the body & subsequently spreading to the brain are known as secondary or metastatic brain tumors. The growth of brain tumors often greatly vary & together with the location of the brain tumor often determine as to how they affect the functioning of the nervous system. Treatment options for brain tumors normally depend upon the type, size & location of a brain tumor.
Signs & Symptoms of Brain Tumors
Signs and symptoms of brain tumors are found to greatly vary depending on the size, location & the pace of growth of the brain tumor. However, some of the most common signs & symptoms caused by brain tumors include the following.
• Headaches which gradually get frequent & more severe in nature
• New onset or changes in the pattern of headaches
• Nausea or vomiting without reason
• Problems with vision including double vision, blurred vision or loss of peripheral vision
• Difficulties with speech
• Difficulties with balance
• Hearing problems
• Movement in an arm or leg or gradual loss of sensation
• Seizures in patients having no history of seizures
• Confusion in every matter
• Changes in behavior or personality
It is time to consult a specialist doctor in case you notice persisting signs & symptoms mentioned above.
Risk Factors for Brain Tumors
The cause of brain tumor is most often not clear in people with primary brain tumors. However, doctors have identified risk factors including the following which generally increases chances of a person developing brain tumors.
• Age of the Patient – Risk of developing a brain tumor generally increases as people age. Although they are most common among older adults, brain tumors can occur at all ages. However, there are certain types of brain tumors which almost exclusively occur among children.
• Exposure to Radiation – People who have been exposed to ionizing radiation are found to have increased risk of developing brain tumors. This type of ionizing radiation includes those used in radiation treatments for cancer & radiation exposure linked to atomic bombs.
• Family History of Brain Tumors – There is a small portion of brain tumors which are found to occur among people having a family history of brain tumors or with a family history of certain genetic syndromes which increase the risk of a person for developing brain tumors.
Diagnosing Brain Tumors
Doctors usually recommend a number of tests & procedures including the following when a person is suspected of having a brain tumor.
• Neurological Examinations – Among other things, these may include examining strength, coordination, balance, hearing, vision & reflexes. Patients having difficulties in any one or more of these areas can provide clues as to the part of the brain which may be affected by the brain tumor.
• Imaging Tests – MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is most commonly utilized imaging study for diagnosing brain tumors. A contrast dye may also be injected in some cases through a vein in the arm during MRI tests. Other specialized MRI scans include Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy, Perfusion MRI & Functional MRI can also help doctors in evaluating brain tumors & for developing an effective treatment plan. Other types of imaging tests which are performed for diagnosing brain tumors include Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans & Computerized Tomography (CT) scans.
• Tests for Detecting Cancer in Other Parts of the Body – In case doctors suspect that the patient is having a secondary brain tumor which has migrated from some other part of the body, they may recommend additional tests & procedures in order to determine the original location of the cancer. Like for an example, a CT scan of the chest may be able to probe signs of breast cancer.
• Biopsy – This involves collecting a sample of abnormal tissue & testing under a microscope within a laboratory. A biopsy is often performed as part of an operation designed to remove brain tumor & can also be performed as a precursor for extracting sample with help of a needle. Stereotactic needle biopsy is usually performed for brain tumors which are located within hard to reach areas or areas which are extremely sensitive within brain & may, therefore, get damaged by an extensive operation. During a stereotactic needle biopsy, neurosurgeons typically drill a small hole into the patient’s skull through which a needle is subsequently inserted. Brain tumor tissue is then removed with help of the needle & which is frequently guided by MRI or CT scan imaging. After this, the biopsy sample is viewed under a microscope to determine whether it is cancerous or non-cancerous in nature since this information is critical for establishing diagnosis, prognosis & most importantly for developing a treatment plan.
Causes of Brain Tumors
Primary brain tumors begin within the tissues of the brain including meninges (brain-covering membrane), pineal gland, pituitary gland or cranial nerves. These tumors usually start when normal brain cells mutate & acquire errors within their DNA. Eventually, these mutations make the affected cells to grow & divide at an increased pace & continue living far longer than healthy normal cells do. As a result of they for masses of abnormal cells which form into tumors. However, primary brain tumors occur much less commonly than secondary brain cancers which have come to the brain from other parts of the body. Following are the most common types of primary brain tumors which derive their names from the type of cells which are involved.
Types of Primary Brain Tumors
• Gliomas – This type of brain tumors usually begin in the brain or spinal cord & include oligodendrogliomas, oligoastrocytomas, glioblastomas, ependymomas & astrocytomas.
• Meningiomas – These are brain tumors which arise within meninges that is the membrane surrounding the brain & the spinal cord. However, most meningiomas are found to be noncancerous.
• Schwannomas – Also known as Acoustic Neuromas, these are benign tumors which are found to develop on nerves controlling hearing & balance & leading from inner ear to the brain.
• Pituitary Adenomas – These brain tumors are mostly benign & develop within the pituitary gland located at the base of the brain. Moreover, these tumors can also affect the hormone secretions of the pituitary gland & thereby disturb the entire functioning of the body.
• Medulloblastomas – Considered as the most common brain cancers in children, medulloblastomas start within the lower back portion of brain & then spread through spinal fluid. Although these brain tumors are less common in adults, they do occur in few cases.
• PNETs – Primitive Neuroectodermal Tumors or PNETs in short, are rare cancerous brain tumors which start within fetal (embryonic) cells in brain & can occur anywhere within the brain.
• Germ Cell Tumors – These tumors normally develop during childhood in place of ovaries or testicles, but sometimes they migrate to other parts of the body including the brain.
• Craniopharyngiomas – These are rare noncancerous brain tumors which begin near the pituitary gland which secretes hormones for controlling several body functions. However, craniopharyngiomas grow very slowly but can still affect the functioning of the pituitary gland & other structures located close by.
Secondary Brain Tumors
These are metastatic brain tumors which have originated in some other part of the body & subsequently spread to the brain. Secondary brain tumors generally occur among people who are having a history of cancer. However, in some rare cases, secondary brain tumors may be the first sign of cancer although they had originally begun in some other part of the body. Secondary brain tumors are far more common in comparison with primary brain tumors. Moreover, any type of cancer can spread to the brain, but the most common types of cancers which do include breast cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, kidney cancer & melanoma.
Brain Tumor Treatment Options
There are five common treatment options presently available for brain tumors. Choice of treatment or combination of treatment options normally depends upon the size, type & location of the brain tumor along with the general health & preference of the patient.
• Surgery as Treatment of Brain Tumor – Neurosurgeons will typically remove just as much of brain tumor as it is possible when tumors are located in areas which are inaccessible. In some other cases it may not be possible to separate brain tumors from surrounding tissue or may be located in sensitive areas of the brain & so might make surgery risky as well. Doctors in such cases would only remove as much of brain tumor as it may be safe to do so. Quite often even removing a part of the brain tumor is helpful in reducing signs & symptoms of the problem. However, brain tumor surgery carries a certain amount of risks including infection & bleeding. Other risks associated with brain tumor surgery depend upon the area of the brain where the tumor is located. Like for instance, operations upon tumors located near nerves connected to the eyes can involve risk of vision loss.
• Radiation Therapy Treatment for Brain Tumor – Utilizing high-energy beams like x-rays or protons, radiation therapy is basically designed to destroy tumor cells. External beam radiation which comes from a machine located outside the body is one way of delivering radiation while the other brachytherapy involves placing radiation inside the body & close to the brain tumor is also applied in rare cases. Moreover, external beam radiation can be focused upon the brain tumor specifically or applied to the entire brain as whole-brain radiation which is most often sought when brain cancer has come from some other part of the body. Side effects of radiation, however, depend upon the dose & type of radiation which patients receive & generally include headaches, fatigue & scalp irritation which are albeit temporary in nature.
• Stereotactic Radiosurgery Treatment for Brain Tumor – Stereotactic radiosurgery treatment is not surgery in the literal sense, instead uses multiple beams of radiation which are focused in order to destroy brain tumor cells located within a very small area. However, each single beam of radiation is powerless, but at the point where they eventually meet, receives an extremely large dose of radiation which is capable of destroying tumor cells. Different types of technologies are employed for delivering radiation to brain tumors, of which Linear Accelerator (LINAC) or Gamma Knife is the most popular. Another advantage of Stereotactic Radiosurgery is that it is typically performed in a single treatment session & moreover the patient is able to go back home the same day.
• Chemotherapy as Brain Tumor Treatment – Also known as Chemo, this therapy makes use of special drugs in order to kill brain tumor cells. Chemotherapy drugs are either given orally or intravenously in an injection through a vein. Several chemotherapy drugs are available but the option is chosen as treatment typically depends upon the type of cancer. Side effects caused due to chemotherapy drugs usually depend upon the type & dose of medicine & which usually cause nausea & vomiting along with hair loss.
• Targeted Drug Therapy as Brain Tumor Treatment – Targeted drugs are designed to focus upon specific abnormalities of cancerous cells. They work by blocking such abnormalities & eventually cause them to die. Bevacizumab (Avastin) is one such drug which is utilized as targeted treatment for glioblastomas & which when injected intravenously stops the formation of new blood vessels to tumor cells in order to cut off the supply of blood for the destruction of the brain tumor. Everolimus (Afinitor) is another targeted drug utilized as treatment of benign brain tumors occurring among people with tuberous sclerosis genetic disorders. This drug works by blocking an enzyme in the body of the patient which is essential to the growth of cancerous brain tumor cells.
Recovery & Rehabilitation Following Brain Tumor Treatments
Due to the fact that brain tumors can develop in sensitive parts of the brain which control functions like vision, thinking, speech, motor skills & others, rehabilitation may, therefore, be necessary as part of recovery. For this reason, doctors usually recommend brain tumor treatment patients to other healthcare professionals including the following.
• Physical Therapists
• Occupational Therapists
• Speech Therapists
• Tutoring for School-Age Children
Affordable Brain Tumor Treatments with Travcure Medical Tourism
Travcure Medical Tourism is one of the largest & most experienced healthcare service provider based in South Asia. Associated with top neurosurgeons, specialist doctors & the best accredited multispecialty hospital facilities in India; medical experts at Travcure work together so as to ensure quality care & successful recovery to each & every patient. Brain tumor treatment with Travcure may possibly involve neurosurgeons, neuropathologists, neuroradiologists, neurologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, rehabilitation specialists & several other medical professionals as required. Doctors & hospitals associated with Travcure use the latest technological advances available today including intraoperative MRI, computer-assisted brain surgery, lasers & awake brain surgery in order to provide outcomes at par with the best in the world. Travcure brain tumor treatments take all efforts to make patients feel comfortable by reducing uncertainty prior to undergoing surgery.