What is Brain Cancer ?
Cancer cells grow in the brain tissue forming a mass. These cells impair the normal functioning of the body such as memory, muscle control and other body functions. These are called primary brain tumors that originate in the brain. There are also chances that the cancer can originate elsewhere in the body and then spread to the brain. These are metastatic cancers.
Types of brain cancer :
They are categorised into two kinds of brain cancers.
- Primary brain tumors : These cancers grow inside the brain tissue. The cancers are classified based on the type of tissue the cancer grows. Brain tumors are mostly gliomas. They are called gliamos as they grow in the glial tissue. The different types of gliamos are. They include.
- Astrocytomas : Astrocytomas causes in the small star shaped cells called astrocytes which could grow anywhere in the brain or in the spinal cord.
- Astrocytomas : These cells multiply rapidly in the cerebrum found mostly in adults while in children they grow in the brain stem, the cerebrum and the cerebellum.
- Oligodendrogliomas: The cancer grows in the myelin producing cells. These cells are actually the fatty covering and protects nerves.
- Ependymomas : These cancers can develop in the ventricles or in the spinal cord.. They are mostly seen in children and adolescents.
There are some other tumors that do not grow in glial tissue. They are :
- Meningiomas : The mass that forms are mostly beningn in the meninges region. These can become tumor after a long period of time or progress slowly. They occur in women between the age group 30 and 50 years.
- Schwannomas : These tumors are benign which grow in the Schwann cells that produce myelin. They protect the peripheral nerves. They affect women more than men.
- Craniopharyngiomas : They develop in the pitutary gland.
- Germinoma : They grow in the germ cells. It’s the most common tumor from the germ cells family.
Symptoms of brain cancer :
The symptoms differ based on the size, type, location and the extent of the disease. The most common symptoms of the brain tumor are:
- Headaches that don’t persist in one place
- Severe headaches
- Blurred or double or loss of vision
- Numbness in arms and legs
- Loss of balance
- Difficulty in speech
- Communication problems and Confusion
- Personality and behavioural changes
- Sudden onset of seizures without having a medical history of it
- Problems in Hearing
- If problem persists talk to your physician.
Causes and risk factors :
Causes for Primary brain cancers are not known. But, there are certain factors that may contribute to brain cancer. They include :
- Age : Brain cancers increase as age advances. Age is a risk factor for brain tumor. There are also certain cases of brain tumors that affect children.
- Exposure to radiation : People who have been exposed to ionising radiation such as radiation therapy can also increase the risk of brain cancer.
- Family history of brain tumors: Tumors have a genetic lenience as well. These increase the risk of brain tumor.
Preparing for your appointment:
If the symptoms persist and are worrying you visit your physician. Your physician after having conducted a physical examination and an analysis of your symptoms he will refer you to a specialist who will be :
- Neurologist : They specialize in brain disorders.
- Oncologists : They treat cancers.
- Neurosurgeon : They conduct surgeries on the brain and nervous system
Prior preparation before the appointment can be helpful. Here are few things that you should do :
- Have a check on any pre appointment restrictions
- Make a note of the symptoms
- Make a note of any medications you have been taking now or before
- Jot down your queries so that you can clear your doubts.
- The appointment can be booked just by making a call.
Tests and diagnosis :
If the specialist suspects it as a tumor then you will be asked to take a series of tests that wil help determine the disease more accurately. They are:
A neurological exam : This is done to check the most normal functions of the brain such as a your vision, hearing, balance, coordination, strength and reflexes.
Imaging tests : A Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is the most common imaging test conducted. In few cases a dye is injected in to the vein for better clarity of the tumor. Computed Tomography (CT) scan and positron emission tomography are among the other imaging tests conducted to detect the tumor.
Biopsy : Sometimes a biopsy is conducted to remove a part of the tumor. Since, brain is a very delicate area; a stereotactic needle is used to reach the sensitive regions of the brain where there is a tendency for an internal damage of the brain. This is later studied under a microscope to determine the type of tumor.
Treatments too are deviced after looking into several factors. They are:
- Your medical history and overall health
- The type, location, and size of the tumor
- Your capacity to withstand specific medications, procedures, or therapies.
Surgery : Brain is a very delicate organ. Hence, surgery in this region can arise many complications. Some of the possibilities where the the brain surgery can be conducted are :
- If the tumor is in a place where it can be removed safely without affecting the other areas of the brain then the surgeon will remove as much as the tumor possible.
- When it is located in a sensitive area of the brain then he will remove partially so that the other regions are not affected.
- Even a partial removal of the tumor will improve the symptoms. These surgeries should be conducted very carefully. If any of the surrounding areas such as the nerves near your eye is touched then it can lead to vision loss.
The cells are killed by using high energy rays such as x-rays, protons. Radiation therapy is of two types-
External beam radiation : Here the beam is sent externally outside your body targeting the affected area.
Brachytherapy : Here the radiation is given inside your body on the tumor.
Stereotactic radiosuregry : This procedure uses multiple beams and highly focused form of radiation to kill the cells in a smaller area. They are directly focused on that region. It is not a surgery as the name suggests. This is done in one go and the patient can get back home without any hospital stay.
Chemotherpy : This form of therapy uses drugs that can be taken orally or in the form of injections that are sent through the veins. Temozolomide (temodar) is the drug usually administered for brain cancer patients. The drugs are prescribed based on the availability and the kind of cancer.
Targeted drug therapy : It works on the abnormalities that are helping the tumor to grow. Hence the drugs given through the vein blocks the formation of new blood vessels cuts of the blood supply and kills the tumor cells finally. Through this procedure it only kills the cells but also stops the cells from growing further and blocks the supply for to spread further. Glioblastoma is bevacizumab (Avastin) is the drug that is used for targeted therapy.
Support : There are support groups who work diligently to help brain cancer patients. They take every initiative to help you face the disease that causes physical and financial distress to you and your family. The counselling sessions, talks with the cancer survivors will help you lift your spirits and understand the issues, concerns and battling of the disease.
Prevention of brain cancer :
Prevention is one way to avoid any disease. Early diagnosis will not lead the cancer to metastatic brain tumors. They include:
- Exposure to radiation in the head region should be avoided.
- Exposure to toxic chemicals associated like the oil and rubber industry, embalming chemicals, and other environmental toxins can prevent brain cancers.
- Avoiding HIV infection.
- Some websites also advice on avoiding the usage of the cell phone.
- A macrobiotic diet is also suggested by the popular websites to prevent cancers.
Why choose KIMS ?
KIMS is a renowned hospital with a team of specialists comprised of oncologists and surgeons who have handled and analysed umpteen number of brain cancer cases. They use the most recent innovations in the medical science to treat cancers such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy and targeted therapy. They also have support groups which can assist the patients’ financial needs.