Also known as an intracranial tumour, a brain tumour is an abnormal mass of tissue in which cells multiply uncontrollably. The examples of the most common types of brain tumours in adults include:
Gliomas: Glial cells, which provide nutrition and support the structure of the central nervous system, are the common sites for the growth of gliomas.
Meningiomas: These tumours usually originate in the meninges, which includes the membrane surrounding the brain. These tumours are common in women who are aged between 40 and 70 years old.
Brain tumours can be malignant or benign. Malignant brain tumours are fast-growing cancerous growth that originates in the brain and spread to other parts of the brain, including brain cells, meninges (the membrane surrounding the brain), nerve cells, central nervous system and surrounding tissues. Malignant brain tumours can also be secondary brain tumours, which may start in one part of the body including lungs, breast, kidney, skin, or spread, and metastasise to the brain.
Benign brain tumours are slow-growing primary brain tumours that are non-cancerous growth with defined borders. These tumours do not spread to the surrounding tissues or organs, and they rarely develop into metastatic tumours.
Based on the location and size, symptoms of malignant, or benign brain tumours include:
Headaches especially on straining, coughing, early morning headaches
Seizures / fits
Mental or behavioural changes
Paralysis on one side of the body
Hormonal changes in some pituitary gland and hypothalamic tumours
Malignant or benign brain tumours can be diagnosed using
Neurological examination: This is a test of the nervous system which includes testing the strength of your hands, reflexes, hearing, vision, the sensitivity of your skin, etc. Simple questions or simple math are used to test your mental stability and agility.
A computerized tomography (CT) scan
A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan- Mainstay of diagnosis of brain tumour
Biopsy- After surgery of navigation guided biopsy for deep lesions. Tissue biopsy gives a definitive diagnosis and helps plan further treatment if needed like radiotherapy, chemotherapy, etc.
Brain tumours are generally treated using:
Surgery- craniotomy and excision of tumour is a mainstay and often the first line of treatment for brain tumours. Surgery aims at removing the complete tumor or as much as safely possible to reduce tumour size. It also provides tissue for definitive diagnosis and molecular studies to guide further treatment. With recent advancements like a high-end microscope, neuro-navigation, nerve monitoring and increasing expertise surgery has emerged as a very effective and safe treatment modality for brain tumours
Radiotherapy- It involves controlling or killing tumour cells with radiation. Sometimes, especially in metastatic tumours whole-brain radiotherapy is required.
Radiosurgery- It involves focused radiation to the tumour in one or two sittings. It is helpful in controlling smaller tumours and recurrent tumours.
Chemotherapy- Intravenous or oral chemotherapy is indicated in a chemosensitive or radioresistant tumour. It is also indicated in malignant tumours in children below three years of age where radiotherapy is contraindicated. Intracavitary chemotherapy uses implanting the drug directly on the tumour surface during surgery to control the recurrence of a malignant tumour.
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