Brain Matters

Ever wondered why wearing helmet is a legal requirement for motorcycle riders? Why is it when the rain starts pouring, the first thing we cover is our head and not our feet? Why are head gears necessary for boxing, baseball, taekwondo, American Football, and all extreme sports? Why is it in times of accidents and great dangers, the first thing we would protect is our heads?

You may find the questions too superficial to be thought of but the answer is too important to be dismissed as ephemeral– the head houses the most important organ in our body, the brain. Whenever we are faced with extreme situations where physical injuries are very likely to happen, it can be observed that the innate response would be to protect the highest part our body. In times of great sacrifice and no choice of full body protection, the head receives the most protection we can exert. The reason for this is our recognition that once the head, or the brain more specifically, is adversely damaged, the rest of our body and all its functions are at a greater danger; worse, it can be the end of our life here on earth.

The brain is basically in control of all our body functions. From the simple winking of our eyes to the complex respiration of our cells, the brain is the master controller. Everything we do and everything that is happening inside our bodies are all subject to the processes unfolding in our brains. Together with the rest of the central nervous system (spinal cord and nerves), the brain serves as the central processing unit of all our body processes. Moreover, the brain is vital to our minds and intellect. The adjective brainy is in reference to a person who is smart, intelligent, or knowledgeable. The brain is the depository organ of our all our memories and knowledge we have acquired through the years of our lives. The things stored in our brains significantly determine our identity as individuals. Hence, it is but reasonable we give so much importance to it.

However, there are instances that no matter how we protect our brains, harms and damages to it seem inescapable. Brain cancer speaks well of this dreadful instance. Yes, just like most of our body organs, the brain is not free from the deadly claws of cancer.

Brain cancer is the result of tumor growths in a person's brain. Just like in other cancer types, brain tumor is an outcome of the abnormal overproduction of cells– brain cells for brain cancer– that are non-functional and unnecessary. Tumors in the brain can be benign or malignant. Cells making up benign tumor are generally not cancerous. Benign tumors may be easily removed and are likely not to develop again. The worst that benign tumors can do is to press itself on some sensitive portions of the human brain and lead to some symptoms. Being an amalgamate of cancer cells, malignant tumors can intrude the crucial functions of the human brain. Cancer cells in a malignant tumor reproduce so rapidly that they can invade other non-infected brain tissues. Malignant tumors are generally a threat to life and a valid cause for intense alarm.

What is even more dreadful is the fact that the cause for developing brain tumors remains unidentified. The only consoling thing about tumor growth in the human brain is that it is not contagious. But with 16,000 people being diagnosed to be having brain tumor each year, brain tumor not being contagious is not a consolation after all. What is known are the factors that are highly possible to trigger the growth of cancer cells. Medical studies show that brain tumor is highly possible among people who have been exposed, usually worked, in industries such as oil refinery, rubber factory, and drug manufacturing. Specifically, embalmers and chemists have shown very high incidence rate of developing brain tumor. Ironically, the link between genetic factors and tumor growth is not yet clearly established, as it is in other cancer types. But these risk factors are not conclusive, for any person of any age is susceptible to developing brain tumors. Actually, the incidence is more common among kids in 3-12 age group and adults at 40-70 age bracket.

Symptoms of tumor presence in a person's brain include speech defects, memory lapses, seizures, pounding headaches at mornings, weakening or paralyzing of the limbs, poor walking coordination, vomiting and nausea, malfunctioning vision, and abrupt change in personality. Treatment for brain cancer is more complicated than in other cancer types. The standard surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy procedures are just the tip of the iceberg. Pre and post treatment cares are as crucial as the main procedures in ensuring that a patient recovers holistically.