Updated 10 August 2023 | Approved By Dr. Umberto Russo
What is Brain Cancer?Brain cancer is a serious disease that affects the brain, which is the control centre of our body . It happens when abnormal cells grow uncontrollably in the brain, forming a mass called a tumour. These tumours can disrupt normal brain functions and cause various problems. Early detection and prompt treatment are crucial for a better chance of recovery. Brain cancer is a serious illness, but with medical advancements and ongoing research, there is hope for improved outcomes and quality of life for those affected.
Brain Cancer TypesThere are several types of brain cancer that can affect the severity and symptoms of the condition . A proper diagnosis of brain cancer is important for appropriate treatment and management.
Primary vs. Secondary Brain CancerThere are two main types of brain cancer: primary and secondary. Primary brain cancer starts in the brain itself, while secondary brain cancer occurs when cancer from other parts of the body spreads to the brain.
GliomasThese are the most common types of brain cancer and start in the brain's supportive cells called glial cells. There are different types of gliomas, such as astrocytomas, oligodendrogliomas, and glioblastomas.
MeningiomasThese tumours form in the meninges, which are the protective layers surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Meningiomas are usually non-cancerous (benign), but they can still cause problems if they grow large enough.
MedulloblastomasThese brain tumours often affect children and teenagers. They begin in the lower back part of the brain called the cerebellum and can spread to other parts of the central nervous system.
Pituitary AdenomasThese tumours develop in the pituitary gland, a tiny gland at the base of the brain. They can disrupt hormone balance and cause various health issues.
SchwannomasThese tumours arise from Schwann cells, which are responsible for protecting nerve fibres. Schwannomas usually affect the nerves that control hearing and balance.
Brain Cancer SymptomsThese brain cancer symptoms are signs that something might be wrong in the brain. These symptoms can vary depending on where the tumour is located and how big it is. It’s important to consider other conditions that can lead to these symptoms. Some common brain cancer symptoms include:
- Persistent and severe headaches
- Seizures, especially if they happen suddenly without a history of seizures.
- Vision problems (e.g., blurriness, double vision, etc.)
- Trouble speaking or understanding words.
- Balance and coordination issues
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weakness or numbness
What Causes Brain Cancer?The exact cause(s) of brain cancer are not always known, but there are some factors that scientists believe may contribute to its development . Here are some possible causes:
Genetic ChangesSometimes, changes in our DNA can lead to the growth of abnormal cells in the brain. These changes can be inherited from parents or happen by chance during a person's lifetime.
Radiation ExposureBeing exposed to high levels of radiation, like during certain medical treatments or radiation accidents, may increase the risk of developing brain cancer.
Environmental FactorsExposure to certain chemicals or toxins in the environment may play a role in the development of brain cancer, but more research is needed to understand this better.
Family HistoryIf someone has close relatives who have had brain cancer, they may have a slightly higher chance of developing it too. However, most cases of brain cancer are not inherited.
AgeBrain cancer can happen at any age, but it is more common in older people.
Weakened Immune SystemPeople with weakened immune systems, such as those who have undergone organ transplants or have certain diseases like HIV/AIDS, may have a higher risk of developing brain cancer.
Brain Cancer TreatmentTreatment for brain cancer depends on factors like the type of cancer, its location, and how advanced it is. The goal of treatment is to remove or control the cancer while also considering the person's overall well-being and quality of life . Your GP may refer you to a specialist, such as a neurosurgeon or neurologist, for specialised care. Here are some common brain cancer treatment options:
SurgerySurgeons try to remove as much of the tumour as safely as possible. Surgery is often the first choice if the tumour is in a location where it can be reached without causing significant damage to the brain.
Radiation TherapyRadiation therapy uses high-energy rays to target and kill cancer cells. It's often used after surgery or as the main treatment when surgery isn't possible. Radiation can also help shrink tumours and relieve symptoms.
ChemotherapyIn chemotherapy, powerful drugs are used to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing. It can be given orally or intravenously and is sometimes used along with other treatments.
Targeted TherapyThis treatment uses drugs that specifically target certain molecules or proteins in cancer cells to stop their growth and division.
ImmunotherapyImmunotherapy helps the body's immune system recognise and attack cancer cells. It boosts the body's natural defences to fight cancer.
Clinical TrialsResearchers are always looking for better treatments, and some patients may have the opportunity to participate in clinical trials to try new therapies.
Brain Cancer ComplicationsBrain cancer can lead to various complications, which are problems that arise due to the presence of the tumour in the brain. It's essential for individuals with brain cancer to work closely with their healthcare team to manage these complications and get the appropriate support. Rehabilitation, medication, and supportive care can play crucial roles in improving a person's quality of life and addressing these challenges. Some common brain cancer complications include:
- Metastasis , where the brain spreads to other areas of the body, including the lungs and kidneys.
- Neurological issues, such as headaches, seizures, changes in vision, speech difficulties, and problems with balance and coordination.
- Cognitive changes, such as memory, concentration, and problem-solving skills. This can affect a person's ability to think clearly and perform daily tasks.
- Emotional and behavioural changes, including mood swings, depression, anxiety, or personality changes.
- Physical impairments like weakness, numbness, or paralysis in specific body parts
- Hormonal imbalances from brain cancers can cause various health issues and disrupt the body's normal functions, leading to problems with growth, metabolism, reproduction, and overall well-being.
- Side effects of treatments including surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
- Increased intracranial pressure as a brain tumour grows can raise pressure inside the skull, causing symptoms like severe headaches, nausea, and vomiting.
Receiving quality care from highly experienced doctors is essential for a prompt diagnosis and receiving the correct medical treatment. With 24-7 MedCare, you can experience telemedicine from the convenience of your own home. Our friendly online doctors will be available 24/7 for a consultation, anytime and anywhere in Australia.
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- Australian Government Department of Health. (2023). Australian Brain Cancer Mission. https://www.health.gov.au/our-work/australian-brain-cancer-mission
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2021). Brain and other central nervous system cancers in Australia: Cancerseries no. 127. https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/cancer/brain-other-central-nervous-system-cancers/summary
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