In 2012, 13,700 people died from brain or nervous system cancer and there were 22,910 new cases reported – that’s just one year. So many people are impacted by cancer whether as a patient or a relative or friend of a patient; because of this, people are always concerned that they will become one of those statistics.
So what do you need to know?
Let’s start with what a tumor actually is. Basically, tumors are abnormal cells that grow at a faster rate than normal cells. A tumor can be benign (meaning not malignant) or malignant ([muh-lig-nuhnt] meaning cancerous)
There are many different types of brain tumors. First, primary brain tumors are tumors that begin in the brain (not traveling from another part of the body). Any primary tumor refers to the type of tissue where the tumor first appeared. The most common brain tumors are call gliomas (that’s pronounced glahy-oh-muh). A secondary tumor is one in which the cells travel from another area of the body – so a in the brain, a secondary tumor would be cells that traveled into the brain (via blood stream) and burrowed in and started multiplying cells in its new home.
There are a couple types of gliomas:
Astrocytomas (pronounced Ä s’trÅ -sÄ«-tÅ ‘mÉ™)- this is a cluster of star-shaped cells referred to as astrocytes. These can grow anywhere in the brain or spinal cord; but there are general pattern that seems to occur. Astrocytomas are most often found in the brain for adults but in the brain stem in children.
Most people know that cancer has many grades – I, II, III, and IV. Identifying cancer early allows a patient to be treated quickly and more effectively.
Anaplastic astrocytoma: This is a grade III astrocytoma.
Glioblastoma multiforme (pronounced glee-o-blas-TO-ma multih-FOR-may): This is a grade IV astrocytoma.
My brother died from a grade IV, glioblastoma multiforme, when he was 49 years old. We didn’t know the signs that indicated he was in trouble. Obviously, we wish we had. Now I tell people what signs to look for so that they can get treatment in time and not go through the ugliness of dying from a brain tumor.
Check Out These Signs
The most frequent symptoms of brain tumors include:
- Headaches that tend to be worse in the morning and ease during the day
- Seizures (convulsions) – what my brother experienced was little spaces of time that he couldn’t account for. For example, while ordering food in a restaurant, he would suddenly stop talking – that was the extent of his seizure for many years until he had a grand mal seizure (that’s the kind of seizure with convulsions).
- Nausea or vomiting
- Weakness or loss of feeling in the arms or legs
- Stumbling or lack of coordination in walking (ataxic gait)
- Abnormal eye movements or changes in vision
- Changes in personality or memory
- Changes in speech: My brother lost his ability to speak well; this was because the tumor was in his speech center in his brain. This became one of our biggest clues to his condition.
Don’t overlook any of these signs or symptoms in the people you love. Educating yourself and being observant may just help someone you know get the help they need before it’s too late.