Brain tumors - few important facts
Every time someone gets headache, there are chances that the thought process of a brain tumor has already kicked in. It’s horrible!!! The thought of developing brain tumor itself is horrible. But if you look at a broader perspective, most of us have not spotted a single brain tumor in our locality till the time we all are reading this blog. Then why the fear about brain tumor? The fear comes out of lack of information.
Any new growth within brain is called as brain tumor. Tumor can be of two types.
Benign tumor - non cancerous tumor
Malignant tumor - cancerous tumor or simply cancer
Invasion is the characteristic of any cancer by virtue of which cancer cells invade normal cells of brain leading to early symptoms.
There are no hard and fast rules about what kind of tumor will arise at a specific age group. But by convention chances of cancerous tumors are more at extremes of ages, childhood as well as elderly population. Young people are more prone to develop benign tumors or non-cancerous tumors.
Benign tumors examples.
Choroid plexus papilloma
Malignant tumors examples.
What happens when someone develops brain tumor ?
The dramatized picture of a person having brain tumor depicted by Indian cinema is not always true. Many brain tumors have silent presentation and symptoms are mild. It is in cases of most of the benign tumors where tumor is growing very slow and the brain which gets compressed by it, “adjusts” , to the compressive effect of the Tumor. The benign tumors do not have tendency to invade brain and hence symptoms are slow to occur and slow to progress.
Cancers have rapid progression due to infiltration or invasion of the normal brain, affecting its functions early, in the course of illness. Hence symptoms occur early and progress early in course of illness.
Headaches which can be one of the early presentation especially when tumor is large in size, growing fast which causes increased pressure in skull cavity directly or indirectly by blocking normal cerebrospinal fluid(CSF) pathways in brain leading to accumulation of excess water(CSF) in brain.
Fits can be early presentation when Tumor is small but irritates brain and being electrical organ, brain responds with excessive abnormal electrical activities which are called as "seizures" or "fits".
Speech and understanding problems occur when tumor affects speech centre or the understanding centre in brain.
Memory problems are seen when tumor affect memory centres in frontal and temporal part of brain.
Weakness or numbness involving a part of body seen when tumour involves locomotor and sensory centres.
Along with these symptoms there can be affection of vision, hearing, sense of smell, swallowing, vocalisation, balance while walking etc depending upon which part of brain is involved by the tumor.
There is no single Symptom which can point towards brain tumor. There has to be a combination of symptoms and the most important progression of symptoms for diagnosis of brain Tumor.
Surgical excision of the tumor remains the gold standard especially when the tumor has started producing symptoms, no matter whether its benign or malignant tumor. There are certain criteria which needs to be accounted for before planning treatment. Those criteria include size, location within skull, operability, possibility of complete excision , age and premorbidities etc.
There are occasions when other allied treatment like radiosurgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy are also included standalone or in combination with surgery.
Benign tumors once excused completely do not recur. Malignancy Tumor have variable prognosis depending upon safe extent of excision of Tumor, type of Tumor and efficacy of allied therapies like chemo or radiotherapy.
With advances in neurosurgical techniques it has been possible to deliver unequivocal results post surgery in both benign as well as malignant tumor cases. Surgical morbidity and complications following surgery have drastically gone down. Surgical safety has improved with different methods like intraoperative monitoring, neuronavigation about which I am going to write in details on another blog. Life expectancy has improved with improvement in quality of life.
I would like to conclude saying that rules of one patients do not apply to another patient, because this is human physiology. No two fingers are same. Similarly, treatment options are needed to be personalised by taking into account all possible variables, so that best possible outcome ensures.
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