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Brain Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Brain cancer is an abnormal growth of cells in the brain. This condition can arise from abnormal cells in the brain or from the growth of cancer cells that develop in other organs that spread to the brain. Check out a full explanation of the symptoms, causes, and how to treat it in the following review.

Brain Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

What is Brain Cancer?

Brain cancer is a condition when cells in brain tissue experience abnormal and uncontrolled growth which then forms a mass called a tumor.

These tumors will take over space in the brain, suppress healthy brain tissue, and take nutrients from the surrounding tissue.

Actually, not all tumors in the brain are cancer. Tumors in the brain can be divided into benign tumors and malignant tumors.

Benign tumors consist of cells that are not cancerous while malignant tumors consist of aggressively growing cancer cells. Cancer is the term used for a malignant tumor.

Symptoms of Brain Cancer

It should be noted that there are many characteristics of brain cancer and are not specific. This condition makes cancer can be caused by many other diseases as well. Even some people cannot recognize the symptoms that appear.

The only way to know for sure is to get tested for cancer. Even so, there are some common symptoms that can be recognized, including:

  • Headaches especially in the morning and don’t go away or even get worse.
  • Muscle weakness, more often on one side of the body than the other.
  • Paresthesia, a needle-like sensation or numbness in certain parts of the body.
  • Experiencing balance problems, difficulty walking, or arm and leg fatigue.
  • Decreased alertness, concentration, and memory.
  • Nausea or vomiting, especially in the morning accompanied by dizziness or vertigo.
  • Visual disturbances, such as double vision, blurred vision, loss of peripheral vision.
  • Difficulty speaking (voice disorders).
  • Gradual changes in intellectual or emotional abilities.

In some cases, the appearance of the characteristics of cancer occurs gradually and can be ignored even for a long time. However, sometimes symptoms can appear more quickly.

In addition, someone who has cancer as if his body had a stroke. In some people, the characteristics of cancer become clear when the cancer cells are located in the lobes of the brain that are usually responsible for certain bodily functions.

Changes in behavior may predominate in cancers of the frontal lobe, while difficulties with speech or movement may predominate in cancers of the parietal lobe.

Also Read: 5 Benefits of Omega-3 for Brain Health, Don’t Miss It

When is the Right Time to See a Doctor?

Get medical attention right away if you develop any of the following symptoms:

  • Unexplained and persistent vomiting.
  • Double vision or unexplained blurring of vision, especially on one side only.
  • Seizures appear.
  • Headaches, especially in the early morning.

Causes of Brain Cancer

As with tumors in other parts of the body, the cause of brain cancer has yet to be determined with certainty.

However, there are several factors that are thought to increase the risk of this deadly disease, including:

  • Radiation exposure to the head.
  • Hereditary factor.
  • HIV infection.
  • Have a smoking habit.
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals from the environment.
  • Spread of cancer cells from other organs of the body.

However, the causes of the change from normal cells to cancer cells in both metastatic and primary brain tumors are not fully understood requiring further research.

Brain Cancer Diagnosis

The doctor will do a physical examination and ask about your complete medical history and that of your family. If indications are found that lead to cancer, the doctor may recommend carrying out several examinations, including:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This examination will provide detailed images of the brain and other organs using radio waves and high-strength magnetic fields.
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scans. This examination provides an image of the brain using X-rays.
  • Electroencephalography (EEG). This examination is done by recording the brain’s electrical activity so that it is known when there is abnormal activity.
  • Biopsy. Take a tissue sample that is suspected of being cancer and examine it in the laboratory.
  • Blood test. Cancer in the brain can affect other organs of the body, so it is necessary to check the condition of the body, such as liver function tests, blood clotting profiles and electrolytes.

Types of Brain Cancer

When viewed from the origin of cancer cells, brain cancer can be divided into two types: primary and secondary brain cancer. Cancer cells that develop from brain tissue are called primary brain tumors, while brain tumors that spread from other bodies to the brain are called metastatic brain tumors.

1. Primary Brain Cancer

This condition occurs when a cell in the brain that does not normally grow and multiply in an abnormal way. Several types of primary brain cancer, including:

  • Astrocytoma. This type of brain cancer is a brain cancer that occurs when there is abnormal growth in glial cells or cells that support the nervous system. Astrocytoma is common in children or the elderly.
  • Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). This type of brain cancer is the most malignant glial cell cancer, can grow and spread quickly. GBM most often affects the 50-70 year age group.
  • Medulloblastomas. Glial cell brain cancer grows and develops in the cerebellum or cerebellum. This cancer is common in children and adolescents.

2. Metastatic Brain Cancer

Metastatic brain tumors (also called secondary brain tumors) form from cancer cells that spread through the bloodstream from a tumor located elsewhere in the body. The most common cancers that spread to the brain are those that arise from cancers originating in the lung, skin, breast, and kidney.

Brain Cancer Stage

Brain tumors vary in their rate of growth and their ability to cause symptoms. The following is a scoring system for classifying tumors, including:

Stage I

The tissue is benign, the cells look almost like normal brain cells, and cell growth is slow.

Stage I

The tissue is malignant, the cells look less like normal cells than cells in a class I tumor.

Stage III

Malignant tissue has cells that look very different from normal cells. Abnormal cells are actively growing (anaplastic).

Stage IV

Malignant tissue has cells that look the most abnormal and tend to grow very quickly (aggressively).

Also Read: Symptoms of Early Stage Brain Cancer You Can Recognize

Brain Cancer Treatment

Basically, brain cancer treatment plans are adjusted based on the patient’s condition. Treatment varies greatly depending on the type of cancer, location, size, age, and overall health.

The following are treatments that are generally undertaken by brain cancer sufferers, including:

1. Surgery

A procedure to remove all tumor cells by cutting the tumor from normal brain tissue. This procedure involves opening the skull (invasive surgery).

Some brain cancers are called inoperable by surgeons because attempting to remove the cancer can result in further brain damage or death.

Patients with a diagnosis of an inoperable brain tumor should consider seeking another opinion before surgical treatment is abandoned.

2. Radiotherapy

This therapy attempts to destroy tumor cells by using high-energy radiation that is focused on the tumor to destroy the tumor cells’ ability to function and replicate.

Radiation therapy is a nonsurgical procedure that delivers a single, high dose of precisely targeted radiation using focused gamma rays or X-rays that focus on a specific area—or the area of ​​the brain where the tumor or other abnormality is located.

The equipment used to perform radiation therapy varies. Tomotherapy is a type of radiotherapy in which radiation is delivered in a very precise manner as it minimizes radiation exposure to healthy tissue.

3. Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy tries to destroy tumor cells using drugs designed to destroy certain types of cancer cells.

Specific drug therapies are numerous and each regimen is usually tailored for the specific type of brain cancer and tailored to each patient. Basically, various treatments are useful to save normal brain cells.

Other treatment options may include hyperthermia (heat treatment), immunotherapy (immune cells directed to kill certain types of cancer cells), or steroids to reduce inflammation and brain swelling. Some of these ways can be added to other treatment plans.

Also Read: 11 Types of Brain Tumors You Need to Know

Brain Cancer Complications

This condition rarely spreads to other organs of the body. In fact, brain cancer can occur due to the spread of cancer cells in other organs, such as the kidneys, lungs, or breast.

Complications that can occur due to brain cancer, include:

  • Weight loss.
  • Bone pain, such as in the back, ribs, and skull.
  • Swelling of the abdomen
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Changes in the shape of the head and/or face
  • Brain inflammation
  • Cerebral hemorrhage
  • Swelling of the brain due to fluid filling

While there’s no way to prevent brain cancer, early diagnosis and treatment of tumors that tend to metastasize to the brain can reduce the risk of brain cancer.

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  4. Davis, Charles Patrick, MD, PhD. Brain Cancer. (Accessed February 10, 2023).
  5. Moawad, Heidi. 2021. Symptoms of Brain Cancer. (Accessed 10 February 2023).

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