Brain cancer occurs when a malignant tumor, or abnormal growth of cells, forms in the cranium or along the central spinal canal.
Although these tumors can be extremely serious, even life-threatening, due to the limited space within the cranium and the delicate nature of the human brain, not all tumors are fatal. It is estimated that over 20,000 people are diagnosed with brain cancer each year.
Diagnosing Brain Cancer
Brain cancer can have a number of symptoms, although many patients may have a benign brain tumor for years and show no symptoms at all. In nearly every instance of a malignant tumor, patients experience dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, severe headaches, or feeling intense cranial pressure. In advanced cases, the patient may experience partial paralysis or changes to their personality.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is one of the most accurate ways to diagnose brain cancer. These tests can show the size and location of the tumor, which can then help to determine the progression of the disease. Other tests might include an electroencephalogram (EEG) or a computed tomography (CT) scan.
Treatment Options for Brain Cancer
Once the size and location of the brain tumor has been determined, the doctor and patient can decide on the most appropriate course of treatment. It is important that the doctor has an accurate idea of the tumor’s scope, as this form of the illness can be difficult to treat. Doctors monitor the mass closely before proceeding with treatment. If the tumor spreads or metastasizes, that can make treatment both more difficult and more critical.
Surgery is one of the most common treatment options for brain cancer. The doctor can remove part or the entire tumor, thus reducing the pressure on the brain and alleviating much of the patient’s discomfort. In virtually every case, the doctor will try to remove as much of the tumor as possible and monitor any of the remaining portion to prevent against it metastasizing to other parts of the brain.
Chemotherapy is also administered to many patients. In this treatment, the patient is given powerful medication which kills the cancerous cells. You can also learn more by visiting the National Brain Tumor Society.