A mass of abnormal cells is known as tumour. You have guessed that a brain tumour occurs in the brain. Brain tumors may be noncancerous and others cancerous. Such tumors can start in the brain or travel from distant body parts to the brain (secondary or metastatic brain tumor).
We don’t know why brain tumour occurs. But researchers believe that primary brain tumors occur when normal brain cells mutate and grow uncontrollably. Tumors can develop in any part of the brain and spinal cord. It may affect vital functions.
You should note that brain tumors are asymptomatic in most cases. However, when a tumour begins to grow and presses the brain tissue, a person can experience some symptoms.
Most symptoms are not specific and are often recognized quite late by the patient or treating physician. We will discuss some warning signs of a brain tumour based on the size and location of the tumour.
Convulsions or seizures:
Seizures are the most common symptom in patients with malignant brain tumors. These are sudden, repetitive muscle movements caused by a burst of electrical impulses in the brain. A brain tumor can cause seizures which can be short-term. The short-term seizure indicates the presence of a tumour in the brain. The tumour may be low-grade and slow-growing in one of the lobes of the brain or the meninges.
The pressure inside the skull can increase due to the growth of tumour or restriction of fluid present in the skull and spinal cord. It can lead to fluid buildup in the empty spaces deep within the brain. It can lead to symptoms like headache, nausea, and papilledema(swelling of the optic nerves due to increased fluid pressure in the brain). Nerves and blood vessels can be under pressure due to tumour growth, causing headaches.
You shouldn’t jump to any conclusion, like you may have a tumour if you have a headache. Most headaches are not due to a brain tumour. On the other hand, if your headache is persistent and occurs in various patterns, you should consult your doctor. Such headaches may be due to a tumour. These headaches may worsen in the morning or when you change your position, cough, or bend over. Vomiting or nausea can follow such headaches. Even the painkillers won’t give you much relief.
Difficulty in body balance and muscle weakness
You may face difficulty maintaining body balance, and doing any tasks, and your mobility may be affected. One might be unable to walk properly and may face a loss of balance and coordination. Notably, these symptoms may affect only one-half of the body, like the left part of the right part.
Changes in behaviour
Since the tumour grows in the brain, it may affect brain functions. So, your personality may change, and you may behave differently. Such changes happen when the tumour lies in the frontal lobe, temporal lobe, or cerebrum. You may face memory problems. Your mood and personality may change if the tumour is primary or metastatic. Some behavioural changes are confusion, concentration difficulties, short-term memory loss, trouble speaking and thinking, and mood swings.
Vision gets affected if the tumour is in areas of the brain like the temporal lobe, occipital lobe, or brain stem. Problems like blurred or double vision may occur if the tumour squeezes the brain tissues. This built-up pressure, in turn, may lead to increased pressure on the optic nerves. Optic nerves are part of the visual system. Our vision is affected if optic nerves are damaged or hurt. Some warning signs are loss of vision(partial or complete), blurred vision, light sensitivity, rapid eye movements, and dry eye syndrome.
Focal deficits- The location of tumour affects the focal signs and symptoms. These symptoms arise due to local tissue destruction, the effect of a mass on adjacent structures, or angiogenic edema.
The above symptoms may or may not occur due to a brain tumour. A variety of reasons can also cause these symptoms. These reasons can be lack of or unable to sleep, mental disorders, dehydration, vitamin deficiency, and some medications. In case, you have one or more symptoms for a long time, or the symptoms worsen, you must consult your physician.
Diagnosis of brain tumour
when you visit the doctor, they will ask about your symptoms, family history, and a few other questions. They ask you for a neurological exam to find if a tumour is behind the symptoms. A neurological exam will test your hearing, vision, balance, and coordination.
After the above examination, the next to come are the imaging tests. The imaging tests can help to generate detailed images of the brain. MRI or CT scans can determine the location and other details about the tumour. The other tests are biopsy, spinal taps, and speciliased tests.
Treatment of brain tumour:
After determining the location, size, type of tumour, and the number of tumours, your specialist will prescribe you a treatment plan. Treatment also depends on other factors like your age and overall health status. While benign tumours may be removed by surgery, the same is not true for malignant ones. Doctors may use the treatments like:
Surgery: When there is a clear margin, the neurosurgeons can successfully perform brain surgeries to remove the tumour. Surgeons may even keep you awake during the surgery. It is a way to reduce the damage done to the functional areas of your brain.
Radiation: The tumour is irradiated with doses of high-energy beams like X-rays to shrink or kill the cancer cells. Another type of radiotherapy is brachytherapy. In this type of treatment, surgeons surgically place radioactive seeds or implants near the tumour. It ensures the tumour becomes the target without affecting the healthy cells.
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy utilises chemo drugs to kill or shrink tumour cells. The doctors might give the chemo drugs through an injection or pills.
Immunotherapy: This treatment uses the immune system to target and destroy cancer cells. It works by stimulating or boosting the immune system against the tumour cells.
Targeted therapy: Cancer cells are different from normal cells. This treatment uses drugs that target the specific features present in the cancer cells.
Managing symptoms and side effects: Apart from the treatment, you may receive medication to help relieve the symptoms and side effects of the treatment. Drugs like mannitol or corticosteroids can reduce the pressure inside the skull. Shunts can be surgically placed inside the skull to drain the excess fluid from the brain. The patient may receive palliative care to deal with the symptoms or side effects.