In Spain 3,500 new cases of brain tumor are diagnosed annually ; Regarding brain metastasis, the figure increases to 14,000 cases, being the second cause of death in children under five years of age.
A brain tumor is defined as the growth of a set of abnormal cells in the brain. There is a wide range of tumors, both benign and malignant . In some cases it can start in the brain; it is what is known as a primary brain tumor. Meanwhile, in other cases the cancer begins in other areas of the body and spreads to the brain; this is known as the secondary or metastatic brain tumor.
How quickly the tumor grows varies based on a wide selection of factors, such as the location of the tumor or how it affects the function of the nervous system . When it comes to treatment, it largely depends on three circumstances: the type of tumor, as well as its size and location.
The central nervous system is made up of the brain and spinal cord. The brain is a group of very important organs for a large selection of functions such as motor skills, breathing, temperature, memory … The brain is divided into three parts.
- Brain: the front part of the brain is known as such. The brain is made up of a right hemisphere and a left hemisphere. Its functions are very broad: beginning of movement, temperature, touch, vision, hearing, common sense, reasoning, emotions and learning capacity.
- Brainstem: Includes the midbrain, pons, and medulla oblongata. It is also a part with essential functions for the proper functioning of the body: movement of the eyes and mouth, transmission of sensory messages, hunger, breathing, consciousness, heart function, sneezing, vomiting and swallowing.
- Cerebellum: it is the back part of the brain and its main function is to coordinate the movements carried out by the body’s muscular system . It is also responsible for maintaining a correct body posture.
What is brain tumor?
A brain tumor is called a mass that increases in size inside this organ. This tumor can originate in the brain itself; or it may occur in another area of the body, generally the lung or breast, and spread to the brain.
The tumors malignancy grow at a considerably faster rate than benign; In addition, they show greater aggressiveness and are more invasive, putting the life of the patient at serious risk in a high percentage of cases. Thus, the tumor can cause damage, in some cases irreversible, to the brain due to tissue invasion or pressure exerted on certain areas of the brain.
Types of brain tumors
There are different types of brain tumors, which are interesting to know.
It is the type that occurs most frequently both among adults and children. This type of tumor originates from glial cells , hence its name. Within gliomas there are different types of tumors depending on their location, as well as the cells responsible for their development.
- Astrocytoma: in this case the tumor develops from connective tissue cells, which take the name of astrocytes. It is the most common type of brain tumor in children. Astrocytoma is classified according to grade: high, low, and medium. High-grade is the most malignant brain tumor that exists, generating serious symptoms such as problems when walking or double vision, among others.
- Brainstem glioma: As its name suggests, this tumor is located in the brainstem. It occurs almost exclusively in children and is impossible to remove surgically.
- Ependymoma: This type of tumor also originates in glial cells. Its growth is generally slower, but it can reappear after treatment is finished.
- Optic nerve glioma: it is one of the rarest brain tumors and those who suffer from it have total or partial loss of vision, as well as hormonal problems. It is very difficult to deal with.
Pineal region tumors
The main function of the pineal gland is to control the sleep and wake cycles . Different types of tumors can develop near it, gliomas being one of the most frequent. Benign pineal gland cysts are also common.
Primitive neuroectodermal tumors are known as such . These can develop in any area of the brain of children. In the vast majority of cases, they occur in the posterior part of the brain, very close to the brain; in this case, they are called medulloblastomas.
Medulloblastomas are a rapidly growing type of PNET with a high risk of spreading, affecting other areas of the central nervous system.
They are benign tumors that originate at the base of the brain. It usually affects adolescents and young people, although they can occur at any age.
Causes of brain tumor
Despite the numerous research studies carried out in this field, to this day the direct causes of a brain tumor are unknown. However, there are a number of risk factors that greatly increase the chances of suffering from the disease.
- Genetics: Some research has shown that genetics could be one of the main risk factors for developing a brain tumor. The reason is that there are certain inherited disorders, such as neurofibromatosis, that can play an important role.
- Trauma: although to date there is not much data about the relationship between brain trauma and the tumor, there are some indications that indicate this.
- Radiation: ionizing radiation can be harmful to human cells as they alter their genetic makeup in some way. This type of radiation is used in diagnostic tests such as X-rays, and in the treatment of different tumors by radiotherapy .
- Race and age: Although a brain tumor can occur in people of all races and ages, it is more common in whites and children.
Brain tumor symptoms
The symptoms of a brain tumor can vary significantly from one patient to another since they depend on its type, size and location.
It is important to note that the signs of the brain tumor are added to other secondary ones that arise as a result of intracranial pressure.
The brain is located inside a rigid structure. In this way, as the tumor increases in size, there is an increase in the volume of the brain, which is compressed against the walls of the skull, thus giving rise to a set of symptoms.
In general, the signs of intracranial pressure are the following: headache, vomiting that usually occurs in the morning, irritability, drowsiness and, in the most severe cases, alteration of both respiratory and cardiac functions.
If the brain tumor is located in the frontal lobe, the most frequently recurring symptoms are: paralysis in the middle of the body, dizziness, impaired language and memory, irritability and loss of smell.
If the tumor lodges in the parietal lobe, the signs are the following: decreased strength in the middle of the body, dizziness, difficulty in coordinating movements and in orientation, and problems both speaking and understanding the meaning. of words.
Usually when the brain tumor is located in the temporal lobe it does not cause too many symptoms. The vast majority of patients go to the doctor suffering from dizziness and language disturbances.
When the brain tumor lodges in the occipital lobe, symptoms include dizziness and loss of lateral vision .
In those cases in which the tumor is located in the cerebellum, one of the symptoms that occurs in practically 100% of patients is vomiting , which occurs in the morning. There are also other signs such as dizziness, difficulty walking, and lack of coordination of muscle movements.
And finally, what is related to the signs of a brain tumor lodged in the brainstem: vomiting, headache , facial paralysis, difficulty swallowing and speaking, impaired vision and hearing, and drowsiness.
Brain tumor diagnosis
Once one or more of the symptoms indicated in the previous section occurs, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible.
Once the medical history has been taken based on factors such as age or the signs that the patient presents, the doctor proceeds to perform a neurological examination . It is a diagnostic test that helps to understand the control of vision, hearing, balance, strength, coordination and reflexes that the patient shows. If you have difficulty in one or more areas, it can be a clear indication of the presence of a brain tumor.
In case the doctor considers it appropriate based on the results of the neurological examination, he can request an imaging test . In the vast majority of cases it is an MRI; To obtain a clearer view of the brain and each of its component parts, an MRI with contrast dye is performed.
In cases where there is some suspicion that the brain tumor may be the result of cancer that has originated in another area of the body, the doctor may order additional tests.
To confirm the presence of the brain tumor if it is benign or malignant, what is known as a stereotactic biopsy is performed . The neurosurgeon makes a small hole in the skull, through which a needle is inserted to remove the tissue.
Brain tumor treatment
Brain tumor treatment is very diverse since it largely depends on its type, as well as its size and location. The objectives to be pursued with the treatment are two; on the one hand, to alleviate the symptoms to improve the quality of life of the patient, and, on the other hand, to eliminate the tumor if possible.
In a high percentage of cases, the first treatment option is surgery , which can be accompanied by radiotherapy and / or chemotherapy. Through surgery, the tumor is partially or totally removed, while healthy tissues are decompressed. The main problem is that, despite the great technological advances that have occurred in this area, there are certain areas of the brain that are still not accessible.
The radiation therapy is another treatment options, which can be applied through very different techniques depending on each case.
As for chemotherapy , it is especially effective in certain types of tumors, such as glioblastoma. It is usually given after surgery.
Brain tumor: survival
The great advances made in the field of neurosurgery in recent years have allowed the survival rate after suffering a brain tumor to multiply by three in just two decades.
In addition, today, the probability of removing the tumor mass effectively is 90%.
Researchers and medical professionals believe that during the next decade great advances will be made in the field, to the point of achieving in the future that this is a chronic disorder that can be controlled for several years and does not affect the quality of life of patients. patients.
Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.