The Human brain is the most vital organ that serves as the center of the nervous system. The brain is composed of a spongy soft mass of tissue. The brain controls our thoughts, memories, personality, arms and legs movements, speech, and functions of many other organs in the body. It is also an in-charge of our senses: taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing. A network of nerves carries messages and signals back and forth between the brain and the rest of the body.
A brain tumor is a medical condition in which there is an abnormal growth of tissues in the brain. This abnormal growth starts causing pressure to the skull and can be life-threatening. Brain tumors can be cancerous (malignant) or non-cancerous (benign) A brain tumor is classified as follows:
- Primary: if the tumor originates in the brain. These are mostly benign in nature. They can originate from brain cells, nerve cells, meninges (a membrane that covers the brain), and glands.
- Secondary: if the cancer cells originate from another part of the body and spread to the brain. These are also called metastatic brain tumors. The cancers of the lungs, kidney, skin, and breast can spread to the brain.
Signs and symptoms of the brain tumor are subject to the size and the type of tumor. The symptoms can be noticed when the size of the growing tumor exerts pressure on the brain tissues. Common symptoms include:
- Headache that is worse in the morning, while sleeping, or gets severe during physical activities
- Difficulty in senses like blurred vision
- Personality issues such as confusions, change in mental functioning, mood swings
- Memory loss, difficulty reading or writing
- Seizures or epilepsy
- Weakness in facial tissues and legs or arms
- Nausea, vomiting, vertigo
- Disturbed bowel movements
TREATMENT OPTIONS OF A BRAIN TUMOR
Diagnosis of a brain tumor involves a physical examination, extensive neurological tests, and investigations.
- Neurological examination may include checking your vision, body balance, coordination, walking, posture, reflex, and strength. This examination will point out the parts of the brain that might be affected by the tumor.
- Imaging tests such as Computed Tomography (CT), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Position Emission Tomography (PET) will help the doctor to understand the position, size of the tumor and plan the treatment accordingly.
- A needle biopsy is performed to understand if the tumor is benign or malignant.
The treatment modality for a brain tumor is decided based on the size, type, location of the tumor, and health status of the patient. Timely treatment can prevent complications that can occur as a tumor grows.
Neurosurgery: Malignant tumors need urgent treatment as they can be life-threatening. Surgical removal of the tumor is the most recommended option for the treatment of a brain tumor. The neurosurgery aims to remove as many cancer cells as possible without causing disturbance to the healthy parts of the brain.
Depending on the location of the brain tumor, some tumors are not easily accessible. Therefore, in such cases, partial removal of the cancer cells is also beneficial. Even removing the partial tumor can help subside the symptoms.
Neuronavigation surgery: also called minimally invasive brain surgery. It is a modern technique done with the help of image-guided computer navigation. This technique helps in the accurate removal of the brain tumor without opening the skull.
Along with the surgery, other treatment options include radiation therapy, radiosurgery, chemotherapy, or targeted drug therapy.
In radiation therapy, high-energy beams X-rays or protons are used to access and kill the cancer cells. Radiations come from a machine and focus on the tumor. It can be given to the whole brain or just on the tumor’s location. In rare cases, radiations are placed internally in the vicinity of the brain tumor.
In a secondary brain tumor, radiations focus on the whole brain.
Common side effects of radiation therapy include memory loss, scalp itching, weakness, and headache.
Typically, stereotactic radiosurgery is not a surgery but a type of radiation therapy that uses multiple beams of radiation to kill the cancer cells. These radiations can kill the tumors located in a very small area.
Each beam of radiation has a strong effect when they reach the tumor cells. There are diverse types of technology used in radiosurgery such as a Gamma Knife or Linear Accelerator
Chemotherapy is given depending on the type of brain tumor. Chemotherapy uses drugs either in the form of oral pills or injected intravenously to kill cancer cells.
The dosage of chemotherapy drugs varies in different patients. Common side effects of chemotherapy include vomiting, hair fall, nausea.
Targeted Drug Therapy
Targeted drug therapy aims to block the anomalies present in the cancer cells. Due to which cancer cells eventually die.
A brain tumor affects the personality, mental and emotional well-being of a person. The journey from diagnosis to treatment can take a toll on a person’s ability to recover and live a normal life. Therefore, it is necessary to take the support of rehabilitation to recover. Depending on a person’s need and health condition, doctors may refer to the following rehabilitative care:
- Speech and vocal therapy to help a person overcome difficulty speaking and framing words
- Occupational therapy to help a person perform normal activities including their occupational work
- Physical therapy to help a person gain their lost strength, muscular coordination, motor skills, reflex, and balance
Special education for children to help them cope up with memory changes, confusion, and thought process after a brain tumor treatment.