8th June 2017: World Brain Tumor Day : Spreading awareness to help people fight brain tumors better

8th June 2017: World Brain Tumor Day Spreading awareness to help people fight brain tumors better

120 types of brain tumors; Leading cause of childhood cancer deaths

New Delhi, June 07, 2017 : World Brain Tumor Day is observed on the 8th of June every year with the objective of spreading awareness and educating people about the same. Brain tumors are fatal leaving majority of the patients to die within 9 to 12 months of the diagnosis. Every year 40,000 to 50,000 people are diagnosed with brain tumors, out of which 20% are children[1].  There are more than 120 different types of brain tumors that exhibit different symptomatology[2], the nomenclature of which depend upon the area of the brain from which the tumor originates.

Understanding Tumors of the brain

A brain tumor is a mass of abnormal cells in the brain. The skull, which encloses the brain and is very rigid and any growth inside such a restricted space can cause problems.

Symptoms:

Symptoms that arise from a brain tumor depend on the size, type and location of the tumor which include:

  • Recurrent headaches (waking up with a severe headache on a regular basis)
  • Vomiting
  • Eye problems
  • Unconsciousness
  • Seizures
  • Personality changes
  • Memory loss
  • Loss of hearing
  • Difficulty in speaking ,comprehension and coordination
  • Weakness in limbs

Risk Factors:

  • Family History: Brain tumors can be inherited even though it is extremely rare (less than 10% of all cancers are passed on from one generation to another).The genetic makeup of a person can cause a predisposition to cancer
  • Age Factor: Most types of brain tumors increase with age
  • Race: Brain tumors are more common among Caucasians
  • Exposure to Chemicals: Exposure to certain chemicals (carcinogenic) can also increase the risk of brain cancer. People who are exposed to ionizing radiation are highly prone to brain tumors
  • Frequent use of Cellphones: Preliminary investigations bring to light how the radiofrequency energy from cellphones is capable of causing brain tumors; however the results on this are inconsistent

Types of Tumor:

Brain Tumors are:

  • Malignant
  • Benign

Malignant tumors are:

  • Primary (originate in the brain): develop from the brain cells, the brain membrane, nerve cells and glands.
  • Metastatic (originate in another part of the body and spread to the brain) in nature: develop from lung cancer, breast cancer, kidney cancer and skin cancer.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has created a standard by which all tumors are classified. Tumors are given a name based on the cells where they arise, and a number ranging from 1 to 4. The number is called the grade and it represents how fast the cells can grow and are likely to spread. This is critical information for planning treatment and predicting outcomes.                   

Diagnosis:

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Several imaging tests are used to conduct a diagnosis for brain tumors. These include:

  • Neurological Examination
  • PET Scan
  • Cerebral Angiogram
  • MRI

–          MRI Spectroscopy

–          MRI Contrast

–          Perfusion MRI

–          Functional MRI

Treatment:

Treatment options and recommendations depend on several factors:

  • Size of the tumor
  • Grade of the tumor
  • Type of tumor
  • Location of the tumor and whether it is putting pressure on vital parts of the brain
  • The extent of the tumor
  • The patient’s preferences
  • The patient’s overall health

Surgical Intervention Includes:

  • Microsurgery
  • Endoscopic surgery
  • Image guided surgery
  • Intraoperative monitoring

Along with surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapy can be used as treatment options.

Dr Sandeep Vaishya, Executive Director, Neurosurgery, Fortis Hospital Vasant Kunj, “The frequency of brain cancer increases with age, with more occurrences in individuals aged 65 or older. The age factor varies depending on the cell type and location of the tumor. There are several environmental factors which have the potential to cause cancer of the brain. In addition to this some people with compromised immune systems have an increased risk of developing lymphomas of the brain. Lifestyle changes such as regular physical activity, eating nutritious food and regular intake of water should be inculcated to make the body stronger and more resistant to the development of tumors.”

There is no specified known cause for brain tumors. There isn’t even a set age range within which a person can develop a tumor. While a lot of information regarding this condition remains relatively unknown, several strides have been made to treat it effectively with a reduced rate of morbidity and mortality.

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