Are brain tumors cancer
What is a brain tumor?
This disease mainly affects people over the age of 60, but can in principle occur at any age and even develop in children. The good news: in many cases, the disease is curable.
A brain tumor can make itself felt in many different ways, depending on its location, size and growth. Take your body's signals seriously and have any complaints clarified by a doctor as soon as possible:
- Regular headache are in many cases the first symptom of a brain tumor. They increase when lying down and are therefore strongest at night and after getting up. They are often accompanied by unexplained nausea and vomiting and get worse over the course of a few weeks.
- Depending on the size and location of the tumor, it can be very different neurological failures come: These include, for example, paralysis, visual and coordination disorders as well as language and cognitive restrictions.
- A epileptical attack is the first sign of the disease in about every fifth brain tumor patient. Such a seizure can affect the entire body or just individual areas. This is an emergency: notify the ambulance immediately.
- Personality changes are a rather rare symptom of a brain tumor: Contact your family doctor if you feel unusually listless, overwrought or aggressive.
Your doctor will ask you in detail about your symptoms, any previous illnesses and family predispositions. If he suspects a brain tumor, he will refer you to a specialist in neurology for further diagnostics.
During a physical examination, the specialist can determine any neurological failures that support the suspicion of a brain tumor.
Computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
These imaging examinations show even the smallest of new tissue formations and enable a diagnosis. In this case, your neurologist will arrange further examinations in order to get as precise a picture of the disease as possible. For example, modern studies can show how active the tumor's metabolism and blood flow are.
Once a diagnosis has been made, a tissue sample provides information about whether the tumor is benign or malignant. Usually this is obtained as part of an operation, the aim of which is to completely remove the tumor. Depending on the location and characteristics, a neurosurgeon can alternatively remove the tissue sample with a needle through a small hole in the skull.
Benign or malignant tumor: a matter of growth
Benign tumors grow very slowly, do not penetrate the surrounding tissue and do not form daughter tumors. Malignant tumors enlarge very quickly, often grow together with adjacent structures or form metastases.
Some brain tumors can carry cancer cells into the cerebrospinal fluid - the so-called liquor. By taking a sample of this fluid and examining it, such dispersion can be determined and taken into account in your therapy.
Types of brain tumors
Doctors fundamentally differentiate between primary and secondary brain tumors. While the first case arises directly from brain tissue, a secondary tumor is a spread of cancer elsewhere in the body - a metastasis.
Such a tumor arises from the supporting cells of the brain and can be both benign and malignant. Gliomas make up about half of all brain tumors and are named based on their origin:
- Astrocytomas can arise at any age. If they are very aggressive, it is usually referred to as a glioblastoma: This type of tumor makes up about half of all gliomas.
- Oligodendrogliomas occur most frequently in middle-aged people and grow into the surrounding brain tissue without a clear demarcation: surgeons can usually only partially remove such a tumor.
- Ependymomas often encounter children and young adults and arise from the wall of a brain chamber. These are symmetrical, fluid-filled spaces in the brain. Ependymes can often be treated well.
After gliomas, meningiomas are the second most common type of brain tumor. They arise from cells of the meninges and usually have a benign character. Because they usually grow very slowly and often do not cause any symptoms, they are usually only discovered by chance.
This tumor can develop in early childhood and is usually very aggressive. Get medical advice right away if your child has unexplained morning sickness and headaches, or suddenly has difficulty sitting and standing upright. Early diagnosis and treatment will increase your child's chances of recovery.
If a tumor develops from the coat of a cranial or body nerve, doctors speak of a neurinoma. This is usually a benign, slowly growing neoplasm that most often appears around the age of 50. Such a tumor is particularly common on the auditory and equilibrium nerves.
Pituitary gland tumors can affect people of all ages. Although they are usually benign and grow slowly, they can seriously affect surrounding structures or disrupt the body's hormonal balance.
Lymphomas occupy a special position among brain tumors: They develop from degenerate lymph cells, which, as a subtype of white blood cells, are actually part of the body's own immune system. Such a tumor can develop at any age, but occurs mainly in elderly or immunocompromised people.
No brain tumor is like the next: your attending physician will explain exactly the severity of your disease and recommend the most appropriate treatment for it. Feel free to get a second medical opinion and let us advise you in detail on all options:
Ideally, your neurosurgeon can completely remove a superficial, clearly demarcated brain tumor and thus heal it. Using state-of-the-art treatment techniques such as neuronavigation and intraoperative ultrasound and MRI recordings, he achieves extremely precise treatment results. Healthy brain tissue is spared as much as possible.
Biopsy: focus on tumor cells
After the procedure, several cell samples from the removed tumor are microscopically examined for their benign or malignant nature and their origin. Only with this information can a team of doctors from various disciplines optimally plan your further treatment.
This treatment method is based on the effects of ionizing radiation. A radiation oncologist can use this to attack and destroy the tumor tissue in a very targeted manner. Radiation therapy can be used as a supplement to an operation or as the sole treatment: in the best case scenario, a tumor in the center of the skull can also be cured. Depending on your individual situation, your doctor will recommend a single treatment or a treatment lasting several weeks.
The goal of chemotherapeutic treatment is to render cancer cells scattered in the body harmless: while healthy tissue can recover from the harmful effects of the chemotherapeutic agent, a degenerate cell perishes.
If the cancer is incurable, the focus of treatment is on relieving the symptoms. For example, stronger pain relievers or medication for epileptic seizures and nausea can help reduce the symptoms of the disease. You are not alone in these difficult times: As a patient or family member, contact a psycho-oncologist and talk about your fears, worries and hopes.
Many brain tumors can be cured or kept in check for the long term. After a successful treatment, take all the agreed follow-up appointments reliably: this way, a possible relapse can be recognized early and treated appropriately.
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