What is a brain tumor?
A brain tumor is characterized by the growth of abnormal cells within the brain. Brain tumors are either cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign) and can interfere with normal brain and bodily functions.
There are over 100 different types of brain tumors. Some common ones include:
- Astrocytoma. Astrocytomas are malignant brain tumors that grow at a more aggressive and rapid pace than benign tumors. Astrocytomas form in the supportive “glue-like” tissues of the brain called astrocytes (star-shaped glial cells) located in the cerebrum (the part of the brain that interprets knowledge and decides what to do with it)
- Glioma. A tumor that originates in the glial cells that surround and support nerve cells
- Meningioma. Meningiomas are tumors that form in the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. They are typically benign, but may be malignant or atypical (neither benign nor malignant, but something in between) in some cases
- Metastatic brain tumor. Metastatic brain tumors originate in other areas of the body—such as the lungs, kidneys or breasts—and then spread to the brain. They account for 10 to 1 5 percent of all brain tumors. They are characterized by lesions in the brain
- Pituitary adenoma. Pituitary adenomas are the most common tumor that forms in the pituitary (a gland below the brain that controls hormones and the function of other glands in the body). They are benign, slow-growing tumors and do not spread to other parts of the body. However, their formation may place pressure on the brain or result in a hormone malfunction in the body
What causes a brain tumor?
Though researchers continue to study the causes of brain tumors, genetic conditions, family history, radiation exposure and preexisting cancers have been suspected to cause brain cancer.
What are the symptoms of a brain tumor?
Although symptoms of a brain tumor will vary by size, type, location and patient, common symptoms include:
- Abnormal behavior
- Decreased coordination
- Hearing impairment
- Inability to concentrate
- Loss of memory
- Personality changes
- Severe headaches
- Speech difficulties
- Vision abnormalities
It is important to note that not all brain tumors cause symptoms.
How are brain tumors diagnosed?
After taking a detailed medical history, a physician may recommend one of the following diagnostic tests to confirm that a brain tumor is present:
- Computed tomography (CT) scan. During a CT, X-ray images are taken to produce cross-sectional images of the bone, blood vessels and soft tissues in the face to check for any compression or abnormality
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. With this test, magnetic fields and radio waves are utilized to produce images of the soft tissues in the face to check for any compression or abnormality
- Positron emission tomography (PET). PET harnesses the power of low-dose radioactive material, which is injected into the brain to illuminate active areas in the brain so that physicians can search for abnormalities
How are brain tumors treated?
Like symptoms, treatment for a brain tumor will vary by size, type, location and patient. Treatment options include:
- Drug therapy. Targeted drug treatments are designed to block abnormalities in cancer cells, causing them to die
- Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy utilizes external high-energy beams, such as X-rays or protons, in targeted areas of the brain, killing the cancer cells. In some cases, the radiation may be placed directly into or near the tumor
- Stereotactic radiosurgery. This technique uses multiple radiation beams aimed with pinpoint accuracy at the tumor to destroy it
- Surgery. Surgery for a tumor can only take place if the tumor is in an area that is accessible for an operation. A surgeon can help determine the best surgical treatment option for a patient
At Manhattan Neurosurgery, we are here for those seeking a second opinion or to work with physicians to create customized treatment plans for each individual.