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Brain Tumour: Symptoms, Types, Risk Factors, Treatment and more

The incidence rate of brain tumour is growing, taking a greater toll with each passing year. From symptoms, types, risk factors to treatment, let’s explore all things brain tumour.

Out of 100,000, only 2 Indians are diagnosed with a brain tumour. That accounts for 2% of all the malignancies reported. The incident rate is small though, the mortality rate is staggering. Brain tumour accounted for 24,000 deaths out of 28,000 reported cases, per the IARC report 2018.

What is brain tumour?

Brain tumour is an anomalous cell growth in the brain or spinal cord. The brain tumour is different from a tumour in any other body part. The skull prevents tumour growth, forcing the growing tumour to exert pressure on the surrounding areas. That causes serious health conditions, disabilities, and deaths. The rate of brain tumour growth varies vastly, depending on its type, location, size, severity, and other factors. The brain tumour treatment also varies accordingly.

Brain tumour can be malignant or benign, primary or secondary. A malignant tumour is cancerous, aggressive and disrupts brain function and spreads to other body parts. On the contrary, a benign tumour is non-cancerous, develops slowly, doesn’t spread, and may reoccur. The primary tumour initiates in the brain and the secondary migrates to the brain from other body parts. The primary tumours can be malignant or benign but secondary ones are invariably cancerous.

Types:

Primary brain tumours come in all shapes and sizes. The cells involved decide the name.

  • Meningiomas: Mostly benign, they occur in the brain and spinal cord membranes. A significant percentage of all primary tumours diagnosed are meningiomas.
  • Acoustic Neuromas: These non-cancerous tumours take root in the nerves running from the inner ear to the brain. The affected nerves are responsible for balance and hearing.
  • Pituitary adenomas: They arise in the pituitary gland, which resides just below the brain. Benign though, the tumour often leads to gland malfunction.
  • Medulloblastomas: Affecting mostly minors, these malignant tumours stem from the brain’s lower back portion. The spinal fluids cause their spread to other body parts.
  • Germ cell tumours: This category of mostly cancerous tumours is non-specific to the brain, developing in testicles and ovaries in children. However, they can spread to the brain.
  • Craniopharyngiomas: Like Pituitary adenomas, Craniopharyngiomas have their origin in the pituitary gland. With craniopharyngiomas gaining size, brain function is impeded.
  • Glioma: It occurs in the brain’s supportive tissues and involves 3 different categories of cells – Ependymal, Oligodendrocytes, and Astrocytes. They require a brain tumour operation.

Grading:

Both, benign and malignant brain tumours are graded for classification purposes. The grading is done on basis of how the cells appear under the microscope. The grades range from 1 to 4.

  • Grade 1: The cells behave normal and grow gradually. No signs of malignancy are visible.
  • Grade 2: The tissue shows signs of malignancy, as the cells start misbehaving.
  • Grade 3: The cell growth speeds up, and the tissue appears abnormal.
  • Grade 4: The cell growth is rapid, and the tissue appears to be most abnormal.

Risk Factors:

Brain tumour can strike anyone at any age, but risk factors are there to increase the risk.

  • Those with prolonged exposure to ionizing radiations run a higher risk. These radiations could be from a nuclear explosion or the radiation administered in chemotherapy.
  • People with a family history of brain tumours are more susceptible.
  • Smoking, HIV infections, and exposure to chemicals used in rubber manufacturing, refineries, and other industries can also lead to the development of brain tumours.

Symptoms:

Brain tumours give out certain specific and non-specific symptoms to alert you to the condition. However, some like Pituitary adenomas hardy have warning signs and hence, go unnoticed until death. The symptoms are subject to the size, location and type of tumours present.

Non-specific symptoms:

  • Headaches that get intense with activity
  • Seizures, including convulsions, jerks, spasms
  • The inability of body parts to function
  • Confusion, lack of sensation, muscle pain
  • Lowered sense of vision, smell and hearing
  • Complete loss of consciousness
  • Behavioural changes and memory loss
  • Dizziness, sleep issues, and fatigue

Specific symptoms:

  • Moderate to intense pain in the tumour region
  • Compromised motor skills and perception of touch
  • Muscle wearing, paralysis, and impacted judgment
  • Double vision, weak facial muscles and trouble swallowing

Diagnosis and treatment:

Brain tumour diagnosis involves a neurological examination. Here, body functions with a link to brain tumour are examined. That’s typically followed by CT scan, MRI scan and EEG. A biopsy may be requested to establish the presence of the tumour.

The treatment options are varied, including brain tumour operation (surgery) where the tumour is removed partially or fully. Other options include radiation therapy, chemotherapy and Radio-surgery. At times, steroids and anti-seizure medications might be prescribed for symptom relief.

The treatment modality is decided upon factoring in the patient’s age, overall health status, medical history, ability to tolerate specific procedures, nature of the tumour and more.

 

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