Posted September 14, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 4 min read
A brain tumor is an abnormal growth or mass of cells in or around your brain. Together, spinal tumors and brain tumors are called central nervous system (CNS) tumors.
Causes of Brain Tumor
Researchers know brain tumors develop when certain genes on the chromosomes of a cell are damaged and no longer function properly, but they aren’t sure why this happens.
Your DNA in your chromosomes tells cells throughout your body what to do it tells them when to grow, when to divide or multiply and/or when to die.
When brain cell DNA changes, it gives your brain cells new instructions.
Your body develops abnormal brain cells that grow and multiply faster than normal and sometimes live longer than normal.
When that happens, the ever-growing crowd of abnormal cells takes over space in your brain.
In some cases, a person may be born with changes in one or more of these genes.
Environmental factors, such as exposure to large amounts of radiation from X-rays or previous cancer treatment, may then lead to further damage.
In other cases, the environmental injury to the genes may be the only cause.
Symptoms of Brain Tumor
Headaches that may be more severe in the morning or wake you up at night.
Difficulty thinking, speaking or understanding language.
Weakness or paralysis in one part or one side of your body.
Balance problems or dizziness.
Facial numbness or tingling.
Nausea or vomiting.
Confusion and disorientation.
Diagnosis of Brain Tumor
Brain MRI or CT scan
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the best imaging test for identifying brain tumors.
Computed tomography (CT) is a good alternative if you’re unable to undergo an MRI.
Before these tests, a substance that makes the tumor easier to see called a contrast agent is injected into one of your veins.
These tests can show the tumor’s size and exact position in specific detail.
Your healthcare provider may also look at other parts of your body, such as your lungs, colon or breasts, to see if the tumor has spread.
Healthcare providers usually need to do a biopsy of the tumor (removal of a sample of the tumor for examination under a microscope) to identify the type of tumor and if it’s cancerous.
A neurosurgeon may perform a biopsy during surgery in which they remove all or part of the tumor.
If the tumor is difficult to reach, they may perform a stereotactic biopsy, which involves creating a small hole in your skull and using a needle to take a sample of tissue from the tumor.
Spinal tap (lumbar puncture)
For this procedure, your healthcare provider uses a small needle to remove cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from around your spine.
A laboratory examines this fluid to look for cancer cells.
Healthcare providers use this procedure when they suspect that the tumor has invaded the layers of tissues that cover your brain (meninges).
Certain tests can sometimes help with the diagnosis.
For example, your healthcare provider may order tests that check your blood and cerebrospinal fluid for substances that certain tumors release called tumor markers.
They can also test for gene abnormalities that are characteristic of certain tumors.
Treatment of Brain Tumor
Brain surgery (craniotomy)
When possible, neurosurgeons remove the tumor. They work very carefully, sometimes performing surgery when you’re awake (you won’t feel pain), to minimize damage to functional areas of your brain.
High doses of X-rays destroy brain tumor cells or shrink the tumor in this type of treatment.
This is a type of radiation therapy that uses very focused beams of radiation (gamma rays or proton beams) to destroy a tumor. It’s not actually surgery because it doesn’t require an incision (cut).
This is a form of radiation therapy. It involves surgically placing radioactive seeds, capsules or other implants directly in or near the cancerous tumor.
This therapy consists of anticancer drugs that kill cancer cells in your brain and throughout your body.
You might receive chemotherapy through an injection into a vein or take it as a pill.
Your healthcare provider may recommend chemotherapy after surgery to kill any cancer cells left behind or to prevent remaining tumor cells from growing.
Immunotherapy, also called biological therapy, is a type of treatment that uses your body’s immune system to fight cancer. The therapy mainly consists of stimulating your immune system to help it do its job more effectively.
With this treatment, drugs target specific features in cancer cells without harming healthy cells. Your healthcare provider may recommend targeted therapy if you have trouble tolerating the side effects of chemotherapy, such as fatigue and nausea.
Watchful waiting/active surveillance
If you have a brain tumor that’s very small and isn’t causing symptoms, your healthcare provider may recommend closely monitoring the tumor for signs of growth with regular testing.