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An Introduction To Brain Tumours - CancerMitr

Brain Tumours

The International Association of Cancer Registries (IARC) sheds light on a sobering reality within India’s borders – each year, a staggering tally of over 28,000 cases of brain tumours is documented, with a toll of more than 24,000 lives lost to these formidable adversaries. This revelation serves as a poignant reminder of the gravity of brain tumours.

Indeed, a brain tumour is not to be underestimated; it is a profound and potentially fatal condition, particularly when its presence remains undetected and unchecked. Early detection and timely intervention emerge as critical factors in the battle against this formidable foe, holding the promise of a brighter outcome for those who confront it.

Cancer, a relentless adversary, casts a shadow of despair, affecting not only the afflicted but also their devoted caregivers. Symbolically, cancer resembles a cruel betrayal, as the body’s cells spiral out of control, invading vital tissues and organs and disrupting their harmonious function.

In India, a land of vibrant diversity, the annual tally of cancer cases is staggering. Among these, lung, breast, head and neck, and colorectal cancers loom ominously. Yet, it’s the insidious nature of this ailment that truly makes it treacherous. The malignant cells within an abnormal tumour can grow recklessly, breaking free from their origin and infiltrating distant regions, even the sacred sanctuary of our minds – the brain.

While the incidence of brain and central nervous system (CNS) cancer cases in India is relatively low, at just 2%, the brain remains a vulnerable target for secondary cancers. This prompts us to ponder: What exactly is brain cancer, and how dire is its impact? Allow us to illuminate your path with this comprehensive guide, offering insight and understanding into the complexities of this formidable foe.

What is brain cancer? 

A tumour emerges as a consequence of the body’s cells losing their way, succumbing to unbridled division. In the case of a brain tumour, this unruly proliferation takes place within the brain or its neighbouring tissues and structures, stemming from this abnormal cell division. The brain, often likened to the central processing unit (CPU) of our being, orchestrates the vital symphony of functions that keep us alive.

Now, let us delve into the two distinct personas of tumours: benign and malignant.

  • Benign or non-cancerous brain tumours exhibit a restrained demeanour, staying confined to their point of origin and maintaining a state of metabolic dormancy. They refrain from invading other body parts, though they may expand in size, occasionally exerting pressure on adjacent tissues or organs.
  • Malignant or cancerous tumours wield a far more sinister power, engaging in unbridled cell division and embarking on a relentless journey to infiltrate distant corners of the body. Metabolically active and destructive in nature, they leave a trail of devastation in their wake. Unlike their benign counterparts, malignant tumours exhibit aggressive growth, a stark contrast to the slow, deliberate expansion seen in benign cases.

The size of a brain tumour can be as varied as the human experiences it affects. Often, it’s when these tumours attain a substantial size that individuals begin to notice the telltale signs and symptoms, prompting them to seek answers and assistance on their journey to understanding and confronting this complex adversary.

Read: Benign & malignant tumours: Why is it essential to understand the distinction

What are the types of brain cancers?

Brain tumours, complex entities with diverse origins and characteristics, are classified based on their point of origin or the type of cells from which they arise. It’s imperative to recognize that not all brain tumours are malignant, as a significant number of patients grapple with benign yet perilous growths. In many instances, these benign tumours necessitate removal to prevent further harm, underscoring the need for careful assessment. Only through a biopsy can the definitive nature of a tumour, whether benign or malignant, be ascertained. These brain tumours, each with its distinct traits, are categorized according to their point of origin:

Understanding these distinctions among brain tumours is essential in tailoring effective treatment approaches and highlighting the significance of early detection and intervention in addressing this intricate medical challenge.

Doctors checking brain tumour reports

What are the different types of brain tumours that are non-cancerous? 

Let’s continue our exploration of brain tumours as we delve into additional classifications:

  1. Chordomas: These are benign tumours typically located in the lower part of the spine and at the base of the skull.
  2. Craniopharyngiomas: Emerging from the vicinity of the pituitary gland, which governs the release of critical hormones such as thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), growth hormone, and cortisol, craniopharyngiomas present a unique challenge.
  3. Nerve Cell Tumours: Tumours rarely manifest within nerve cells or neurons. These atypical growths are known as gangliocytomas, gangliomas, and anaplastic gangliogliomas.
  4. Glomus Jugulare: This tumour type takes root at the skull’s base, specifically atop the jugular vein in the neck.
  5. Pineocytomas: Pineal gland tumours, which influence sleep through the release of melatonin, are known as pineocytomas.
  6. Pituitary Adenomas: Originating in the pituitary gland, responsible for the body’s hormone production and regulation, these tumours are distinct from craniopharyngiomas. The primary differentiation lies in their point of origin: pituitary adenomas emerge from the pituitary gland itself, while craniopharyngiomas arise in its proximity.
  7. Schwannomas: Benign in nature, schwannomas develop from Schwann cells in an individual’s peripheral nervous system (PNS) or cranial nerves.

Each of these distinct categories of brain tumours presents its own set of challenges and considerations, underscoring the need for tailored approaches to diagnosis and treatment.


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What are the important symptoms of brain cancer?  

Symptoms of brain cancer can be classified into two distinct categories: general and specific symptoms. 
General symptoms manifest when a brain tumour exerts pressure on the brain or spinal cord and they are;

– Headaches: Often intensifying over time.
– Personality Changes: Alterations in behavior and temperament.
– Memory Loss: Difficulty in recalling specific memories.
– Fatigue: Profound weariness and lethargy.
– Nausea and Vomiting: Discomfort accompanied by these unsettling sensations.
– Sleep Disturbances: Ranging from insomnia to excessive somnolence.
– Drowsiness: A persistent state of drowsy or daze-like alertness.
– Impaired Mobility: The inability to walk or perform daily activities.
– Seizures: A critical symptom with several subtypes:

  • Convulsions: Marked by sudden, involuntary muscle movements.
  • Myoclonic Seizures: Characterized by single or multiple muscle twitches, spasms, or jerks.
  • Tonic-Clonic Seizures: Entailing loss of consciousness followed by muscle contractions and relaxation. Additional symptoms may include loss of bladder control, temporary cessation of breathing (typically lasting around 30 seconds), and post-seizure drowsiness.
  • Sensory Seizures: Involving the sudden loss of sensory perception, such as sight, hearing, or taste.
  • Complex or Partial Seizures: Marked by a partial loss of consciousness or awareness.

These symptoms serve as critical indicators, prompting individuals and healthcare professionals to delve deeper into diagnosis and treatment options.

Brain cancer symptoms that are specific to the tumour’s location include; 

  • Headache (in that specific location
  • Difficulty in fine motor skills and loss of balance – tumour near the cerebellum
  • Sluggishness, muscle weakness or paralysis, change in judgment or personality – tumour near cerebrum’s frontal lobe
  • Partial or complete loss of vision – tumour near occipital lobe, temporal lobe or brain stem of the cerebrum 
  • Speech, hearing, and memory issues, along with aggressiveness and problems understanding or remembering words – tumour in the cerebrum’s frontal and temporal lobe
  • Difficulty perceiving pressure, touch, differentiating right and left sides and weakness in one part of the body – tumour in cerebrum’s frontal or parietal lobe
  • Inability to look up – tumour near the pineal gland
  • Growth in hands and feet during adulthood, change in the menstrual cycle, and secretion of breast milk – tumour near the pituitary gland
  • Double vision, facial numbness, and difficulty swallowing – tumour in the brain stem 

What is the significance of brain cancer grades?

Brain cancers are either primary or secondary, where the latter involves those tumours that metastasise into the brain from other parts. In contrast to many other cancers, brain cancers are evaluated using a grading system that assesses the tumour’s aggressiveness, as opposed to staging based on size and development. This evaluation involves examining the tumour cells under a microscope to determine their grade, which reflects how rapidly they grow.
The brain cancer grades are categorized as follows:

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How is brain cancer diagnosed?

The diagnostic journey for brain cancer is a meticulously tailored process designed to align with the specific symptoms experienced by individuals. Medical experts employ a variety of diagnostic methods to gain a comprehensive understanding of the condition. Here’s a glimpse into the diagnostic arsenal:

– Electroencephalography (EEG): Brain activity is meticulously examined through EEG, offering insights into the brain’s electrical patterns.

– Neurocognitive Assessment: Clinical neuropsychologists conduct comprehensive assessments, evaluating various crucial brain functions, including calculation, language abilities, memory capacity, dexterity, and the patient’s overall well-being.

– Sensory Testing: Individuals experiencing sensory issues may undergo a battery of tests, including those for speech, hearing, neurological function, and eye examinations.

To pinpoint the tumour’s location and characteristics, medical experts often recommend a range of imaging tests, including:

– MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): This imaging test employs magnetic waves to produce detailed images of the body, often enhanced by the use of a contrast medium administered orally or via injection.

– CT (Computed Tomography) Scan: Using X-ray technology from various angles, CT scans are employed to identify abnormalities or tumours in the brain. They are particularly valuable for monitoring treatment progress and for patients with pacemakers.

– Positron Emission Tomography (PET): PET scans utilize substances like sugars or proteins to generate images, aiding in the visualization of tumour activity.

– Cerebral Arteriogram or Angiogram: This imaging test relies on a series of X-rays to illuminate the brain’s arterial network.

– Myelogram: Suggested when there’s suspicion of tumour spread to the spinal fluid or spinal cord, a myelogram employs X-rays and a contrasting dye to detect potential abnormalities in the cerebrospinal fluid.

– Biopsy: This critical procedure involves the collection of a tumour sample for laboratory analysis. It serves as the definitive method to ascertain whether the tumour is benign, malignant, or precancerous.

The selection of these diagnostic tools is carefully tailored to each patient’s unique clinical presentation, providing valuable insights and paving the way for effective treatment strategies in the complex realm of brain cancer.

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What are the various head and neck cancer treatment methods? 

Navigating brain cancer treatment is a formidable challenge, dictated by a confluence of factors, including the tumour’s location, size, growth rate, and the surgeon’s ability to access it. To alleviate symptoms such as swelling, headaches, and seizures, patients often receive medications, including corticosteroids and anti-seizure drugs. The array of brain cancer treatment methods encompasses:

This stands as the cornerstone of treatment for brain cancer patients, often sufficient for grade I tumours (non-cancerous). Surgery entails the precise removal of the tumour, occasionally necessitating the excision of surrounding healthy tissue to curtail further growth. The procedure, known as a craniotomy, sometimes involves the partial removal of the skull and is performed by a specialized neurosurgeon.

It is a treatment process that involves particles like high-energy X-rays to target and destroy cancer cells. It is often given along with other treatment methods, like chemotherapy or surgery, to lessen the size of the tumour.

Employing high-energy X-rays or other particles, radiation therapy is employed to target and eradicate tumour cells. A radiation oncologist oversees this treatment, with the most common approach being external beam radiation therapy. Several types of radiation therapies tailored for brain tumours include:

– Conventional Radiation Therapy: Utilizing X-rays and anatomical landmarks, this method is deemed suitable for brain cancer metastases.
– 3-Dimensional Conformal Radiation Therapy (3D-CRT): This technique employs a 3D model of the tumour, derived from MRI and CT scans, to precisely target the tumour while sparing healthy cells.
– Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT): A variant of 3D-CRT, IMRT allows for even more precise targeting of the tumour.
– Proton Therapy: This innovative approach deploys protons, rather than X-rays, to specifically target and eliminate cancer cells.
– Stereotactic Radiosurgery: Reserved for brain tumours on one side of the brain, this treatment administers single, high-dose radiation precisely to the tumour without impacting healthy tissues.
– Fractionated Stereotactic Radiation Therapy: Delivered in smaller doses, or fractions, over a span of days or weeks, this approach optimizes tumour control while minimizing damage to surrounding tissues.

Each of these treatment modalities is meticulously selected to align with the unique characteristics of the brain cancer and the patient’s overall health, offering a multifaceted strategy in the pursuit of improved outcomes.

What are the different side effects of brain cancer treatment?

Side effects of brain or spinal cord surgery are as follows;

  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Bleeding
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Weakness
  • Balance/coordination difficulties
  • Cognitive problems such as memory loss
  • Spinal fluid leakage
  • Meningitis
  • Stroke
  • Swelling (edema)
  • Excess fluid in the brain (hydrocephalus)
  • Coma

Side effects of radiation therapy are as follows;

  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Skin changes
  • Swelling (edema)
  • Nausea
  • Sexual effects (reduced desire)
  • Blood clots
  • Cognitive changes

What are the supportive therapies for brain cancer patients?  

Brain cancer puts a person in a tough situation because it affects the brain, which acts like a computer, connecting various bodily parts and their activities by sensing and processing information. Supportive therapies depend on the location of the tumour and the symptoms experienced by an individual. Patients can opt for supportive therapy methods like Flower bach, Mistletoe therapy, Tibetan therapy, Homeopathy and Ayurveda.

The comprehensive care and support for individuals facing brain cancer extend far beyond medical interventions. Here are the essential facets of this holistic approach:

– Speech and Movement Rehabilitation: Physical, occupational, or speech therapy may be integral in helping patients regain lost functions, encompassing mobility, speech, or cognitive abilities.

– Cognitive Rehabilitation: Brain cancer and its treatments can occasionally result in cognitive deficits. Tailored programs, including memory training and cognitive exercises, can enhance cognitive function and overall quality of life.

– Pain Management: Some patients grapple with post-treatment pain. Pain management encompasses a spectrum of strategies, including medications and non-pharmacological approaches like physical therapy, acupuncture, or nerve blocks, aiming to alleviate discomfort.

– Extra Support: Basic daily activities like mobility, self-care, and nutrition may necessitate additional assistance. Home nurses and support equipment such as wheelchairs can be indispensable in enhancing the patient’s quality of life.

– Diet and Nutrition: Patients undergoing radiation therapy benefit from immunity-boosting nutrition to facilitate healing. Vitamin-rich foods like yoghurt and broccoli are recommended, and consulting an onco-dietitian can ensure an appropriate dietary plan.

– Mental Health Counseling: Proper mental health counselling is essential to help patients cope with the emotional challenges of brain cancer. Various forms of support, including career counselling, marital counselling, and bereavement counselling, are available to both patients and their families.

– Palliative Care: For individuals with advanced brain cancer, palliative care places a focus on enhancing quality of life. This includes managing pain, addressing symptoms, and supporting emotional well-being. Importantly, palliative care is not confined to end-of-life scenarios; it can be integrated throughout the treatment journey.

– End-of-Life Care: In cases where brain cancer becomes terminal, hospice care provides specialized support. This care prioritizes symptom management, comfort, dignity, and quality of life during the final stages.

This comprehensive approach underscores the importance of addressing the multifaceted needs of brain cancer patients, acknowledging that both physical and emotional well-being play pivotal roles in the journey towards healing and, when necessary, end-of-life care.

What lifestyle changes are people with brain cancer expected to make?

Individuals grappling with a brain cancer diagnosis often find empowerment in embracing lifestyle changes that can aid in managing their condition, enhancing overall well-being, and supporting their treatment journey. These adjustments are thoughtfully tailored based on factors such as the type and stage of brain cancer, the chosen treatment plan, and individual health needs. Here are some common lifestyle changes that individuals with brain cancer may be encouraged to consider:

Prioritizing a balanced and nutritious diet is essential to bolster overall health and fortify the body during cancer treatment. Dietary adjustments may be necessary to address specific symptoms or treatment-related side effects, such as nausea, weight loss, or difficulty swallowing. Consultation with a registered dietitian can provide invaluable personalized dietary recommendations.

Maintaining adequate hydration becomes paramount, particularly when facing treatment-related side effects like vomiting or diarrhoea. Adequate hydration is vital for sustaining overall health and supporting the body’s healing process.

Regular, moderate exercise can contribute to improved strength, stamina, and overall well-being. Collaborating with a healthcare provider is crucial to establish appropriate exercise regimens, especially if physical limitations arise due to the tumour or treatment.

Managing stress assumes a pivotal role in bolstering the immune system and overall health. Incorporating relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises can effectively reduce stress and enhance emotional well-being.

Prioritizing high-quality sleep is indispensable for both recovery and overall health. Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is recommended, and any sleep disturbances should be discussed with the healthcare team.

Minimizing or abstaining from alcohol consumption and quitting smoking can significantly improve overall health and bolster the body’s ability to cope with the stresses of cancer and its treatment.

Adhering diligently to medication schedules as prescribed by healthcare providers is of utmost importance, particularly when managing pain, seizures, or other symptoms.

Open and proactive communication about medication side effects or concerns is encouraged to ensure optimal symptom management. These lifestyle adjustments form a multifaceted approach to caring for individuals with brain cancer, acknowledging the profound impact that diet, exercise, stress management, sleep, and medication can have on their well-being throughout the challenging journey of diagnosis and treatment.

What are the follow-up care steps to be taken after brain cancer recovery?  

The continuum of care for individuals navigating brain cancer extends into the crucial realm of follow-up care. This pivotal phase serves as a vigilant guardian of the patient’s health, facilitating early detection of potential recurrence or complications and offering unwavering support. Here’s what individuals should bear in mind:

– Scheduled Follow-Up Appointments: Attending scheduled follow-up appointments with their healthcare team is non-negotiable. Initially, these appointments tend to be more frequent, gradually tapering in frequency over time. The precise schedule hinges on the individual’s unique case.

– Physical Examinations: During follow-up visits, healthcare providers meticulously conduct physical examinations to scrutinize for any hints of recurrence or fresh challenges linked to brain cancer or its treatment.

– Imaging Studies: Periodic imaging studies, such as MRI or CT scans, often constitute an integral part of follow-up care. These studies serve as vigilant sentinels, scanning the brain landscape for any telltale shifts that might signify tumour recurrence.

– Blood Tests: Certain brain cancers, particularly those sensitive to hormones or marked by specific genetic markers, may necessitate regular blood tests. These tests monitor tumour markers or hormone levels, ensuring that any deviations are promptly addressed.

– Neurological Assessments: These assessments prove invaluable in evaluating changes in cognitive function, motor skills, and sensory function. They hold particular significance for patients who have grappled with neurological symptoms.

– Medication Monitoring: For those relying on medications to manage symptoms or side effects, diligent monitoring of their effectiveness is paramount. Adjustments to the treatment plan are made as needed to ensure optimal symptom management.

– Cognitive Rehabilitation: Patients who have experienced cognitive deficits due to brain cancer or its treatment may continue or refine their cognitive rehabilitation programs during follow-up care.

The continuum of care is not a solitary journey but an ongoing partnership between patients and healthcare providers. Follow-up care stands as an unwavering commitment to safeguarding the well-being of those confronted by the challenges of brain cancer, emphasizing the importance of vigilance, proactive communication, and comprehensive support.

In conclusion

Facing a brain cancer diagnosis can undoubtedly appear daunting, given the central role the brain plays in governing the body’s functions. It can feel like a formidable challenge, but it’s important to recognize that there is hope. With the advent of advanced treatment methods, alongside the invaluable support of therapeutic interventions, patients can often extend their prognosis and embark on a journey of resilience and healing. For anything cancer care, anytime, anywhere:
– Call us on +91 77188 19099, and your CancerMitr will be at your service.

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