Dr. Shantling Nigudgi, Sr. Consultant Radiation Oncology, HCG Cancer Centre, Kalaburagi
The brain, the most complex structure in the human body, is like a cornucopia of various emotions, memories, thought processes, motor skills, and senses, literally regulating every moment of our life. However, the tiniest anomaly or abnormality in this vital part of the body can lead to significant health disturbances and one such anomaly is Brain Cancer or Brain Tumour.
Brain tumour, in simple medical terminology, is defined as an abnormal growth of cells. With an accurate diagnosis, tumours can be further classified as: Benign (non-cancerous) and Malignant (cancerous) type of tumour. Malignant or cancerous tumours are divided further into two types — Primary tumours that form in any part of the brain and secondary or metastatic tumours spread from other parts of the body.
There are various types of malignant tumours, including:
● Gliomas – Tumour that occurs in the brain and spinal cord
● Meningiomas – Tumour of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord
● Acoustic Neuromas or Schwannomas – Tumour that develops in auditory (cochlear) nerves from inner ear to brain
● Pituitary adenomas – Tumours of the pituitary gland
● Medulloblastomas – Tumours on lower back part of the brain, called the cerebellum.
The signs and symptoms of brain tumours differ vastly from patient to patient. However, the most common symptoms are the sudden onset of frequent headaches, nausea and vomiting for unknown reasons, blurred vision, loss of peripheral vision, slurred speech, loss of balance, lack of coordination, difficulty making decisions, behavioural changes, and seizures.
The brain tumour is detected through various blood and imaging tests, including MRI scan, SPECT scan, and other neurological evaluation tests to assess the vision, balance, muscle coordination, reflexes, strength, and hearing. These help in confirming the stage of cancer, the growth of cancer cells and if they have metastasized. Biopsy is done to learn if the tumour is malignant or benign to determine the treatment plan.
If the tests show that a tumour exists, the treatment strategy is devised based on the size, stage, and location of the cancer in the brain. Depending on the location of the tumour, the doctor will determine whether minimally invasive or open brain surgery is appropriate. While a few tumours may be retrieved completely and isolated from the surrounding brain tissue, some malignant growths cannot be eradicated completely. Chemotherapy is recommended for some patients to kill cancer cells using oral medicine or intravenously injected into the vein, followed by radiation treatment that emits high-energy beams on cancer cells to eliminate the tumour cells.
Early detection is critical for prognosis and subsequent treatment approaches. The pace of recovery varies from one patient to other.
Popular Myths and Facts of Brain Tumour:
However, the word brain tumour can send chills down the spine and is often associated with various popular myths. It is important to bust these myths and understand the details behind brain tumour.
• Myth: All brain tumours are cancerous
Fact: No. Tumours can either be benign or cancerous. Only an accurate diagnosis can define it
• Myth: Only elderly are at the risk of brain tumours
Fact: Not true. Brain tumours are unfortunately seen in all age groups, including children
• Myth: Brain tumours are hereditary
Fact: Partially true. In certain cases, mutations from parents are responsible for 5 to 10 per cent of brain tumours
• Myth: Healthy lifestyle habits can prevent brain tumours
Fact: Lifestyle modifications can prevent many chronic conditions. There is no evidence to suggest that they can avert brain cancer
• Myth: Excessive usage of mobile phones can trigger cancer cells in brain
Fact: There is no study available to support this claim. However, use cell phones in moderation for overall mental and physical health
• Myth: Brain tumours occur only in the brain
Fact: No. Cancer cells from various parts of the body can metastasize in the brain causing tumour to grow. These are secondary brain tumours
• Myth: Brain cancer is quite common
Fact: Not true. The chance of a person developing brain tumour is less than 1%
• Myth: Brain cancer can trigger abnormal behavioural changes
Fact: True. Certain patients may suffer from sudden mood swings, intense emotional outbursts and memory loss
Myth: Signs and symptoms of all brain cancer patients are same
Fact: Not true. They vary from person to person and depend upon the cancer grade
• Myth: Vision distortions and chronic headaches indicate brain tumour
Fact: Partially true. These are common symptoms, but brain cancer can be present with various other signs
If you have noticed sudden changes in vision, frequent headaches, or nausea do not ignore it. It is crucial to consult a doctor immediately for an accurate diagnosis and lead a happy life.