A gentleman who had just turned 40, a leading lawyer, found getting tired and could not attend to the needs of his wife and children. One morning when to could not continue with his exercises and felt guilty, the doctors thought it was a heart attack, which was not so. When a Neurologist got an MRI done he was called immediately from a meeting to see the doctor. The doctor said that he had a malignant tumor located deep in his brain. The tumor was in the lower left lobe that controls the speech and the right hand. Being a lawyer imagine his plight.
A surgery was suggested and the operation was done keeping him awake and was asked to speak, when his speech stopped the Neurosurgeon stopped the surgery. After recovery also he could not speak. After extensive speech therapy for more than two years he recovered his speech and considers himself as one of the lucky ones to be able to talk again.
Today though he is not practicing helps cancer patients with their legal issues. Today he says after nine months of radiation and eleven years of chemotherapy at the age of 51 he is a living proof and that there is life even after being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.
WHERE IS THE BRAIN TUMOR FOUND?
Brain tumors can be formed in any part of the brain. Specific tumors are formed in certain regions like:
- MENINGIOMAS-Forms in the protective lining of the brain-meninges.
- PITUITARY TUMORS- Develop in the pituitary gland.
- MEDULLOBLASTOMA- Tumors that arise from the cerebellum or brainstem.
WHAT IS A BRAIN TUMOR?
Brain tumor which is also known as a central nervous system tumor is an abnormal growth or mass of cells in or around the brain. Brain tumors can be cancerous (malignant) or non-cancerous (benign). Some of these tumors grow fast and some grow slowly. Actually speaking only one-third of the brain tumors is cancerous.
PRIMARY TUMORS—Tumors that develop in the brain are known as Primary Tumors.
SECONDARY TUMORS—A tumor forms in a different part of the body and spread to the brain is known as Secondary Tumors.
People who are affected by brain tumors are mostly men than women, older adults, can develop at any age and the leading cause of death among children below 14 is brain tumor.
CAUSES FOR BRAIN TUMOR-
Changes or defects in genes may cause cells to grow abnormally in the brain and a tumor is formed.
- When a person is exposed to radiation from X-rays for a long time, brain tumor is formed.
- Previous cancer treatment can also cause brain tumor.
- Sometimes hereditary conditions are passed down to family members and brain tumors occur.
SYMPTOMS OF BRAIN TUMOR
Sometimes there are no symptoms. Sometimes when another issue is being treated doctors may discover a tumor. When a brain tumor grows and presses the surrounding nerves or blood vessels, then it is a symptom. Sometimes it depends on the location, size and the affected part of the brain. Symptoms can be like—
Headaches, that can be severe. It can only be in the mornings and disappears after a vomiting.
- A person’s behavior might change.
- A person may be confused.
- A person might develop difficulty in balancing or coordinating.
- Lack of concentration; numbness or weakness in one part of the body;
- Can develop problems in hearing, vision or speech.
- Can have memory loss, sleeplessness, thinking, understanding a language, can also have seizures.
DIAGNOSING A BRAIN TUMOR:
Doctors will take a number of tests to confirm brain tumor, like .
- Physical exam and medical history of the patient and family history of the disease.
- Biopsy- a small hole in the skull is done and with a needle and sa sample of the tissue from the tumor is taken.
- Imaging tests, like—CTs, MRIs, SPECTs, PET scans are done. The doctor also examines the lungs, colon or breasts to see where the tumor has started.
- Spinal tap—the doctor can remove fluid from around the spine with a small needle to look for cancer cells.
TYPES OF TREATMENT FOR A BRAIN CANCER:
Treatment depends on the tumor’s location, size and type. A combination of therapies is also used by the doctors. Treatment includes—
- SURGERY: The tumor is removed. Sometimes surgery is done keeping the patient awake to minimize the damage to the functional areas of the brain.
- RADIATION THERAPY: To shrink the tumor or destroy brain tumor cells, high doses of X-rays are taken. At times radiation is taken before the surgery to remove less tissue.
- CHEMOTHERAPY: An injection into the vein is given or anti-cancer drugs are given to kill the cancer cells in the brain that remain in the brain after the surgery. Sometimes before the surgery, chemotherapy is done to make the tumor smaller.
- IMMUNOTHERAPY: The patient’s immune system is used to fight the cancer.
- TARGETED THERAPY: Without harming the healthy cells, drugs are used to target the cancer cells.
- LASER TREATMENT: Lasers are used to destroy the tumor cells.
- Sometimes the doctor waits and monitors for the growth of the tumor by conducting some needed tests.
A brain tumor cannot be prevented. One can reduce the risk of developing a brain tumor by avoiding smoking and excessive exposure to radiation.
BRAIN CANCER IN INDIA:
Brain cancers are very rare to be found in India. Out of 1lakh people only two or three are affected with brain cancer. This number is less than 2% of the total number of malignancies diagnosed.
AWARENESS OF BRAIN CANCER:
There are different types of cancer ribbons with simple loops of ribbon that are worn to support for cancer spread and awareness. A grey ribbon promotes brain cancer awareness. Brain cancer awareness month is May and the Brain Cancer Awareness Day is observed on May 27th. Brain cancer is not spoken and published frequently so there is a need to bring about an awareness of this disease. Hence people need to join the awareness campaigns of this month, especially the survivors and talk to brain cancer patients undergoing treatment to cope with the disease.
For Consultation : Cancer Specialist and oncologist