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When a tumor is present in brain or spinal cord it’s called a brain tumor. Brain tumor can be malignant or benign i.e. cancerous or non-cancerous. There are many types and warning signs of Brain tumor.
Brain Tumor Causes:
Primary tumor occurs when there is a mutation in DNA of normal brain cells and they start to multiply abnormally. Secondary tumor occurs when rapidly growing cells reach brain tissue from elsewhere. Causes of this mutation are still not known.
Risk Factors of Brain Tumor:
There are a few risk factors like radiation. People who have been exposed to ionizing radiation (e.g. X-rays, Gamma rays) to head have a risk of developing certain type brain tumor such as meningioma and glioma. Age is another risk factor. People between the ages 65 and 79 are more likely to develop brain tumor. Genetic conditions like neurofibromatosis or Le-Fraumeni syndrome and brain tumor formation may also be connected. It is rather rare if brain tumor runs in a family.
It is still not known if cell phone radiations, head injuries, exposal to certain chemicals or magnetic field cause brain tumors. Research is still going on on these.
Diagnosis of Brain Tumor:
If a person is suspected to have a tumor in brain, doctor examines him or her to get correct diagnosis. Usually a doctor starts with asking the patient about family history of diseases to rule out any other diseases and performs physical check-up. There may be one or more of the following tests:
- This is a test for nervous system and the doctors checks for any problems that tumor might cause in neurological functions. The doctor looks for any changes or problems related to:
- Limb strength
- Hand strength
- Skin sensitivity
- Balance memory
- Mental agility
Angiogram or MRA:
- They involve the use of dye and X-rays of blood vessels in the brain to look for signs of a tumor or abnormal blood vessels. If a tumor is present, the x-ray may show the tumor itself or blood vessels that are damaged by the tumor.
In this procedure, a doctor takes a sample of cerebrospinal fluid using a local anesthesia. A long, thin needle is used by the doctor to remove fluid from the lower part of the spinal column. A spinal tap takes about 30 minutes. A laboratory checks the fluid for cancerous cells or other signs of tumor.
- MRI: Magnetic resonance imaging is commonly used to diagnose brain tumors. In this procedure, large machine with a strong magnet linked to a computer is used to take detailed pictures of areas inside the patient’s brain. In some cases, a contrast dye is injected into a vein in the patient’s arm or hand to help show differences in the normal and abnormal tissues of the brain. The pictures can show abnormality in tissues, such as a tumor.
- CT scan: In Computerized Tomography, an X-ray machine linked to a computer takes a series of detailed pictures of the patient’s head. A contrast material is injected into a blood vessel in the patient’s arm or hand. The contrast material makes abnormal areas easier to see.
- PET scan: Positron emission tomography (PET) may be used for brain imaging. Usually it is not as useful for creating images of brain cancer as it is for other types of cancer.
- CT and PET scan for secondary tumors: When it is suspected that brain cancer has spread from elsewhere in the body, doctors conduct CT or PET scan to look for other tumors like lung cancer.
- EEG: An electroencephalogram uses electrodes attached to the head to record brain activity in search of abnormalities
- Biopsy: In simple words biopsy means collecting and testing sample of abnormal tissue. A pathologist looks at the cells under a microscope to check for tumor cells. A biopsy is the only sure way of diagnosing a brain tumor (if it’s malignant or benign), learning what grade it is, and planning its treatment. It can be done in two ways:
- Biopsy as a form of treatment: The surgeon takes a tissue sample when during the surgery to remove part or all of the tumor to treat it.
- Stereotactic biopsy: An incision is made in the scalp or a small hole (burr hole) is drilled into the skull. The needle is guided to the location of the tumor with the help of CT or MRI scan. A small sample of tissue is withdrawn with the help of the needle.
Treatment of Brain Tumor:
Treatment depends on various factors like age of the patient, type size and location of the tumor, etc. some of the most common treatment methods are as below:
- Surgery: This is the most common method of treatment. In this method the tumor is surgically removed as much as possible. The aim is to remove it completely but that’s not always possible. Therefore, after removing the tumor as much as possible in such a way that there is no harm to surrounding cells, chemotherapy or radiation is used for further treatment.
- Steroids: Steroids can be toxic to tumor cells but they do not reduce tumor size. Basically, steroids are designed to reduce brain tumor symptoms by reducing the swelling around the tumor. Thus, they make the patient feel better.
- Radiotherapy: This is the use of radiation to destroy cancerous cells. Intense energy beams of radiation are administered to brain causing destruction of tumor cells, decreasing the size of the tumor. The destroyed cells are dealt by the patient’s immune system. Only limitation is that the radiation cannot differentiate between healthy and cancerous cells and can destroy both.
- Stereotactic Radiosurgery: SRS is a special type of radiotherapy and not a surgery. It is a modified form of radiotherapy where a precise dose of radiation is administered to the brain. Only the tumor cells are exposed to the radiation and there is very less chance of healthy cells getting damaged.
- Chemotherapy: When specific drugs are used to treat malignant and other serious tumors it is known as chemotherapy. These drugs are designed to kill the tumor cells. They can also help in stopping of duplication of tumour cells. Chemotherapy may cause vomiting, nausea, hair loss, etc.
Temozolomide is the most commonly used drug for brain tumor.
It might sound strange but there certain precautions one can take to reduce chances of brain tumour or prevent tumor from growing bigger. In fact, sometimes home remedies or natural remedies may even shrink the tumor.
One should consume organic, plant based products, raw juices, coffee enema, natural immune supplements, beef liver, etc. Age old Dadi-Nani nuskha of turmeric as a treatment for cold, injury, stomach problems, skin problems, stands true for cancer as well.
After the treatment, there is still a war to be won. One must get back to his/her normal life. Family and friends must help the person to feel better and help in physical as well as mental therapy.