Understanding Brain Tumours
On the occasion of World Brain Tumour Day, CE speaks to experts about the symptoms and conditions
HYDERABAD: World Brain Tumour Day is observed annually on June 8 since its inception in 2000 by the German Brain Tumour Association. This health day aims to raise awareness about the condition and honour patients with brain tumours and their caregivers.
A brain tumour can be defined as the growth of abnormal cells in the brain that may disrupt the functions of the brain. Since the day also focuses to highlight the common symptoms of brain tumours, keep reading to learn about the symptoms and treatment of brain tumours.
Brain tumours can be benign or non-cancerous or they can be malignant or cancerous. By definition, malignant tumours are more aggressive. Tumours are based on the site from which the cells originated. According to Dr Rajendra Prasad, Consultant Neuro Surgeon, Aster Prime Hospital, benign tumours grow slowly and rarely spread from the original site. They are more common than malignant tumours. Malignant tumours contain cancer cells and don’t have clear borders. They can grow rapidly and spread to other parts of the brain, making them more dangerous.
Symptoms vary depending on the type of tumour and its location. According to Dr Rajendra Prasad, symptoms such as persistent headaches, problems with vision, issues with short-term memory, speech problems, and coordination issues may occur slowly and gradually get worse. They may also develop quickly in the form of a seizure (fits). However, some people may not experience any symptoms at all.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Regarding diagnosis, Dr Prasad says, “To diagnose a brain tumour, we may carry out a neurological examination that will check various functions for problems with possible links to a brain tumour like limb strength, reflexes, hearing, vision, coordination, skin sensitivity etc. We may then schedule additional tests, including a CT scan, MRI scan and EEG.”
When determining the appropriate treatment for brain tumours, several factors are considered, including the patient’s age, medical history, tumour location, size, and type. The most common treatment options include:
■ Surgery: Surgery is typically the first line of treatment for brain tumours. The goal is to remove as much of the tumour as possible without damaging the healthy brain tissue surrounding it.
■ Radiation therapy: This treatment aims to destroy the tumour or inhibit its growth by delivering beams of intense energy to the brain from an external source. This causes the tumour to shrink, and the patient’s immune system helps eliminate the destroyed cells.
■ Chemotherapy: Specific drugs are used to treat brain tumours by inhibiting their growth and preventing the duplication of tumour cells. Chemotherapy is often used in conjunction with surgery or radiation therapy.
Brain tumours can happen at any age and in most cases, the cause is unknown. The only known environmental risk factor for brain tumours is exposure to radiation, usually from radiation therapy for other cancers. Family history of brain tumours is rare among affected individuals, but certain familial cancer disorders can contribute to certain types of brain tumours.
People with weaker immune systems, such as those with late-stage HIV, might also have an increased risk of brain tumours. Since the cause is usually not known, prevention and awareness become important to approach this condition in the right way.
“Brain tumour awareness is required so that the tumour can be diagnosed at the early stage and the functional outcome can be improved. If the diagnosis is delayed then the condition can result in neurological deficits and even sometimes in a coma. As a result, treatment can become challenging. Thus, if it is identified early, the patient can have a deficit-free and longer life” says Dr Rajendra Prasad.