Brain Tumor

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Brain tumors are masses of cells that grow within the brain. Slow-growing cells may form a benign, or noncancerous, tumor. Abnormal cells that grow rapidly may form a cancerous tumor.

What is going on in the body?

The brain is tightly contained within the closed cavity of the skull. Thereis very little extra room within the bony skull cavity. A growing brain tumorcan destroy brain cells directly. Or, it may put pressure on the nearby tissue and destroy cells. These effects can occur with either a benign or a cancerous tumor.

A brain tumor that starts within the brain is known as a primary brain tumor. Often, a brain tumor grows from cells that metastasize, or spread, from a cancer elsewhere in the body. Some of the cancers that often metastasize the brain are as follows:

  • breast cancer
  • colorectal cancer
  • kidney cancer
  • lung cancer
  • melanoma, a skin cancer
  • testicular cancer
  • What are the causes and risks of the condition?

    The people most at risk for brain tumors include:

  • children, especially those who have cancer elsewhere in the body
  • elderly people, especially those at risk for cancer in other areas of the body
  • people who have been exposed to pesticides, industrial solvents, and other chemicals
  • people who have certain genetic alterations
  • people who have certain inherited diseases, including neurofibromatosis
  • people who have received X-ray exposure to the head
  • people who have weak immune systems, such as those who have immunodeficiency disorders
  • Many other risk factors have been reported to increase the risk of braintumors. Research findings have been either unconvincing or conflicting.Additional factors that need further study include:

  • cellular telephones
  • hair dye
  • head injury
  • household appliances, such as microwaves
  • nutritional factors
  • power lines
  • viruses and other biological agents
  • Symptoms & Signs

    What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?

    A brain tumor can produce a number of symptoms, depending on its type, size,location, and growth. Some common symptoms of brain tumors are as follows:

  • abnormal sensations, such as numbness
  • loss of consciousness
  • memoryloss
  • seizures
  • speech impairments,such as difficulty finding the right word
  • visual impairments
  • weakness, often on one side of the body
  • As a tumor continues to grow, it may causeincreased intracranial pressure, or pressure within the brain. Common symptoms of increased intracranial pressure are as follows:

  • drowsiness
  • headaches
  • nausea andvomiting
  • sluggish responses
  • Seizures can occur as a result of irritation between the tumor andthe brain. Pituitary tumors usually result in hormone changessuch as Cushing’s syndrome, a condition in which the adrenal glands produce too much hormone.

    Diagnosis & Tests

    How is the condition diagnosed?

    Diagnosis of brain tumor begins with a medical history and physical exam. The healthcare provider may order other tests, including a cranial MRI.The MRI is usually followed by surgery to remove the tumor or abiopsy to test for cancer.

    Prevention & Expectations

    What can be done to prevent the condition?

    It is not possible to prevent tumors that start in the brain. Metastatictumors can sometimes be prevented by making good lifestyle choices. For example, a person can quitsmoking to lower the risk of lung cancer.

    What are the long-term effects of the condition?

    Long-term effects depend on the type of brain tumor. If leftuntreated, noncancerous brain tumors may grow so large that they put pressureon the brain, leading to death.

    What are the risks to others?

    Brain tumors are not contagious. They pose no risk to others.

    Treatment & Monitoring

    What are the treatments for the condition?

    Medicines may be used to reduce swelling around the tumor. These include corticosteroids, such as dexamethasone. Furosemide or mannitol may also be used. A craniotomy, or brain surgery, is usually done to reduce intracranial pressure.It is also used to make the correct diagnosis. A craniotomy is especially important in the case of noncancerous brain tumors.These usually do not respond to radiation therapy and chemotherapy. It is best to remove them completely.

    Cancerous brain tumors are generally removed with a craniotomy. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy after surgery will help increase theperson’s chance of survival.

    Physical therapy, occupational therapy, andspeechtherapy may be helpful to improve or correct function after thetumor has been treated.

    What are the side effects of the treatments?

    The side effects of steroids, such as weight gain and increased risk ofinfection, may occur with a long period of treatment. Radiationtherapy will usually produce some hair loss. Chemotherapy can causenausea, vomiting, and a low red blood cell count, oranemia.

    What happens after treatment for the condition?

    A person’s progress depends on the areaof the brain that was affected by the tumor and the treatment used. Some peoplehave ongoing disabilities. These may include impaired speech, as well as cognition and inability to move about as easily as others\ \limited movement of arms or legs\ \decrease in strength or control of the muscles and bones\ \abnormal or impaired coordination\ \medical condition requiring bed rest\ mobilityimpairments. Others recover completely.

    How is the condition monitored?

    The healthcare provider may order periodic cranial CT scans or cranial MRIs to watch for further problems. Any new orworsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider.

    Article type: xmedgeneral