World Brain Tumour Day is observed on June 8 every year to raise awareness and educate people about brain tumours. A brain tumour is a controlled growth of abnormal tissues in the brain but not all of them are malign or cancerous. Cancerous brain tumour are known to grow faster than non-cancerous ones. Brain tumours may or may not show symptoms depending on their location. If the tumour develops in lesser active parts of the brain, symptoms may not show up until the tumour grows very large.
Brain tumours can either originate in or around brain tissue or they can spread to the brain from other parts of the body which is also known as a metastatic brain tumour.
What are the symptoms of a brain tumour?
Symptoms of a brain tumour depend on the location and size of the tumour. Some tumours cause direct damage by invading brain tissue and some tumours cause pressure on the surrounding brain.
1. Headaches, which may be even more severe and worsen with activity or in the early morning.
2. People may experience different types of seizures. Certain drugs can help prevent or control them. Motor seizures, also called convulsions are sudden involuntary movements of a person’s muscles.
3. Vision disturbances, such as blurred vision, double vision, or sudden visual field loss, may also point toward an underlying tumour.
4. Persistent nausea, vomiting, or unexplained dizziness should also be watched out. These symptoms can stem from increased pressure within the brain caused by a tumour.
How are brain tumours diagnosed?
The physical exam includes a very detailed neurological examination. Your doctor will conduct a test to see if your cranial nerves are intact. These are the nerves that originate in your brain. Your doctor will look inside your eyes with an ophthalmoscope, which is an instrument that shines a light through your pupils and onto your retinas.
This allows your doctor to check how your pupils react to light. It also allows your doctor to look directly into your eyes to see if there’s any swelling of the optic nerve. When pressure increases inside the skull, changes in the optic nerve can occur.
Your doctor may order more tests after they finish the physical exam. These could include:
CT scan of the head
CT scans are ways for your doctor to get a more detailed scan of your body than they could with an X-ray machine. This can be done with or without contrast. Contrast is achieved in a CT scan of the head by using a special dye that helps doctors see some structures, like blood vessels, more clearly.
MRI of the head
If you have an MRI of the head, a special dye can be used to help your doctor detect tumours. An MRI is different from a CT scan because it doesn’t use radiation, and it generally provides much more detailed pictures of the structures of the brain itself.
This study uses a dye that’s injected into your artery. The dye travels to the arteries in your brain. It allows your doctor to see what the blood supply of the tumours looks like. This information is useful at the time of surgery.
Treatment of brain tumours
The treatment of a brain tumour depends on:
1. The type of tumour
2. The size of the tumour
3. The location of the tumour
4. Your general health
The most common treatment for malignant brain tumours is surgery. The goal is to remove as much of the cancer as possible without causing damage to the healthy parts of the brain. While the location of some tumours allows for safe removal, other tumours may be located in an area that limits how much of the tumour can be removed. Even partial removal of brain cancer can be beneficial.