Brain Tumor: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

The growth of abnormal cells in the tissues of the brain. Brain tumors can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Brain tumors are classified depending on the exact site of the tumor, the type of tissue involved, benign or malignant tendencies of the tumor, and other factors. Primary brain tumors can arise from the brain cells, the meninges (membranes around the brain), nerves, or glands.

Causes of Brain Tumor

The cause of primary brain tumors is unknown. This is because they are rare, there are many types, and there are many possible risk factors that could play a role. Exposure to some types of radiation, head injuries, and hormone replacement therapy may be risk factors, as well as many others. The risk of using cell phones is hotly debated.

Genetic mutations and deletions of tumor suppressor genes (i.e., genes that suppress the development of malignant cells) increase the risk for some types of brain cancer. Inherited diseases that are associated with brain tumors include the following:

Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (pituitary adenoma)
Neurofibromatosis type 2 (brain and spinal cord tumors)
Retinoblastoma (malignant retinal glioma)
Tuberous sclerosis (primary brain tumors)
Von Hippel-Lindau disease (retinal tumor, CNS tumors)
Signs and Symptoms of Brain Tumor

Signs and symptoms can include the following:

New onset or change in pattern of headaches
Headaches that gradually become more frequent and more severe
Unexplained nausea or vomiting
Vision problems, such as blurred vision, double vision or loss of peripheral vision
Gradual loss of sensation or movement in an arm or a leg
Difficulty with balance
Speech difficulties
Confusion in everyday matter.

Diagnosis

Computed tomography (CT Scan): A computerized x-ray machine is used to take a series of detailed pictures from many different angles. Dye may be injected to help to clarify organs and tissues.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): Powerful magnets waves are used to make a series of detailed pictures. Patients are injected with a substance called gadolinium to highlight possible cancer cells.

Angiogram. This imaging test uses a dye to visualize all the blood vessels in the brain to detect certain types of tumors.

Lumbar puncture/spinal tap. For this procedure, a special needle is placed into the lower back and into the spinal canal around the spinal cord. A small amount of cerebrospinal fluid, which surrounds the brain and spinal cord, can be removed and sent for testing.

Treatment

Surgery is required to determine whether a brain tumor exists and what type of tumor it is. A small sample of tumor tissue may be surgically removed and examined under a microscope. This is called a biopsy. Sometimes a biopsy is done by making a small hole in the skull and using a needle to extract a sample of the tumor.

Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells. There are two types of radiation therapy. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer. The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.