What is a brain tumour?
A brain tumour, as the name suggests, is a tumour located in the brain. A tumour is a lump of cells created due to an abnormal cell in the brain suddenly starting to divide itself uncontrollably and much more frequently than the normal cells in the brain, whereby a cell lump, consisting of several abnormal cells is created. Brain tumours can be divided according to which type of cells they are made of as well as whether the tumours are benign or malignant. The malignant tumours can spread to other areas outside of the brain, contrary to the benign tumours. Furthermore, brain tumours can vary both in size and placement. These factors influence the symptoms experienced by the patient. In the UK, more than 9000 people are diagnosed with primary brain tumour each year and about half of these are cancerous.
What are the symptoms of a brain tumour?
The symptoms of a brain tumour are often caused by the tumour pressing on nearby nerve cells in the brain. The brain’s different areas all have different functions, which is why the placement of the tumour is significant to the symptoms experienced. A tumour pressing on the speech centre can therefore influence the ability to speak. Frequent symptoms include:
Headaches – especially those occurring when you lie down
Nausea and vomiting
Speech difficulties and paralysis
These symptoms often reveal themselves gradually over a longer period, and often they appear in the late stages of the disease. On rare occasions, they can occur early and thereby contribute to an early diagnosis, which improves the prognosis. If these symptoms occur, an MRI or CT scan can help establish the diagnosis.
What are the causes of a brain tumour?
What causes brain tumours is still unknown. It is believed that both heritage and environment are influencers. The only factor, which researchers are certain increases the risk of brain tumours, is ionising radiation. This radiation can come from Ultraviolet radiation in tanning beds, X-ray examinations and nuclear power plants. There are a number of genetic diseases which are associated with the development of brain tumours, including tuberculous sclerosis, Turcot syndrome and Li-Fraumeni syndrome.
What are the treatments for a brain tumour?
As brain tumours vary greatly, the treatment of them will also vary, and it will depend on the placement and size of the tumours. The patient’s age and general state are also influential factors. Treating tumours can involve surgical procedures, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, and these treatments can be combined or provided separately. If the entire tumour can be surgically removed, the patient could be cured of cancer. However, as a brain tumour is often difficult to define, it can be a challenge to know for sure whether the entire tumour has been removed or not.
For this reason, an operation is often supplemented with chemotherapy or radiation treatment, which kills the remaining cancer cells. An operation, however, often results in complications and a worsening of the neurological state. Some types of brain tumours can be cured with radiation therapy, including the so-called ‘germinomas’ and ‘embryonal tumours’. Moreover, medicine can be used to treat some of the complications of the disease, as it can reduce swelling of the brain and relieve epilepsy.