Do you know if you have brain tumor symptoms? This condition affects people of all ages indiscriminately, appearing with mixed symptoms.
In this article, we will briefly discuss how the brain works and what tumors are. Then there’ll be a description of brain tumors, their different types, and possible risk factors.
Moreover, we will talk about the common and uncommon symptoms a brain tumor patient can experience and how different brain areas may influence them. Finally, there’ll be details around the diagnosis and treatment of the disease. Continue reading to get the information you need directly from a doctor.
How does the brain work? What does the central nervous system consist of?
The nervous system consists of two main branches; the peripheral nervous system and the central nervous system. The first entails the nerves throughout the whole body that comes out of the spinal cord. The latter involves two very important structures; the brain and the spinal cord.
The brain is the most complicated organ in the body, made of millions of brain cells of different types. It resides inside the skull, which has three layers of protective tissue that united doctors call the meninges.
Grossly or macroscopically it has a division that consists of telencephalon (cerebrum), diencephalon, cerebellum, mesencephalon, pons, and medulla oblongata. They all have different functions but integrate, sending constant signals back and forth.
The cerebrum, which is the more prominent structure we usually recognize in pictures, has lobes with diverse functions. There is the frontal lobe, the parietal lobe, the temporal lobe, and the occipital lobe.
Inside the skull and within the brain and the spinal cord, there is the ventricular system. This is in charge of regulating the brain’s fluids, so there isn’t an increase in pressure. It involves various spaces that drain the liquid while also allowing more in so there’re new nutrients for the brain.
Microscopically the brain has two main types of cells, neurons and glial cells. Neurons are in charge of receiving and giving electrical impulses through chemical molecules and translating that into information.
The glial cells involve four kinds of cells: astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, ependymal cells, and microglia. These cells are responsible for giving neurons structural support, providing nutrients, insulating neurons, and getting rid of potential threats. All of these cells are essential for the brain’s proper functioning, but they can also get sick.
What is a tumor?
A tumor is an unnatural or not normal growth of cells in any part of the body. The term tumor can be non-specific since it refers to a mass of any characteristic and provenance.
The mass can be made of whatever body source, even blood. Yet, in this case, there is an atypical cellular growth in tissue. These tumors we are referring to can be benign or malignant.
Benignant tumors usually stay localized in the tissue they arise but don’t extend to other parts of the body. They also react well to treatments, but their growth can lead to health problems if they do not receive them.
In contrast, one of the main characteristics of a malignant tumor is that it can spread to other parts of the body. They are also hard to treat, and even after treatment, they might reappear, making them very dangerous.
A malignant tumor is known as cancer as well, with the difference that not all cancers produce tumors. For example, leukemia, the cancer of white blood cells, does not cause tumors.
Another important classification of tumors to take into consideration is primary tumors and secondary tumors. A primary tumor is the one that originates from that same body tissue in which it is being found. These can be benign or malignant, depending on the cells’ characteristics and how they replicate. Primary tumors show better scenarios as it is likely they can be benignant.
Secondary tumors are the ones that come from other parts of the body with cancer, causing it in another organ. These tumors are always malignant and are a very bad sign for a patient’s life prospects. Sadly, people tend to get secondary brain tumors; they are quite frequent and dangerous.
What is a brain tumor?
A brain tumor is an unusual and not normal cell growth located in the brain tissue or the meninges (the tissue that covers the nervous system). Tumors can also affect the spinal cord, causing trouble in the central nervous system as well as the peripheral.
As previously explained, these can be a primary brain tumor and a secondary brain tumor. Primary tumors aren’t as common as secondary tumors in the brain, but they usually appear in children and older people. These can be a benign brain tumor or a malignant brain tumor, depending on if there are cancer cells present. Although a benign tumor does not spread, it can grow and increase the pressure inside the skull.
Increased intracranial pressure can lead to many symptoms and consequences a brain tumor patient suffers. This is determined by the cerebrospinal fluid, which is a liquid that transports nutrients in the brain and spinal cord. It also functions as a cushion for the brain against intense head movements to prevent brain damage. If there is an obstruction in the ventricular system by a tumor, for example, the cerebrospinal fluid increases intracranial pressure.
The possible outcomes for a patient with a brain tumor will depend on many things. Some of them are the type and size of the tumor and how fast it is growing. Also, the tumor’s exact place can determine the possibility of surgical treatment and its risks.
The patient’s age and any other disease are vital to determine a tumor’s severity. It is not the same as having the strength of a healthy adult to an older adult. Finally, if it is not a benign tumor but a malignant one, the outcomes will be far worse for the patient.
Are there different types of brain tumors?
Brain tumours don’t only divide as primary tumors and secondary tumors since they have different types themselves. Primary tumors can affect any kind of cell found in the central nervous system, making for a wide tumor variety.
As previously mentioned, there are two kinds of cells in the brain, the nerve cells and the glial cells. Tumors coming from the nerve cells are known as neuromas. There are also the meninges, which are the protective layer of the brain, and they can get tumors as well.
A meningioma is the most common primary brain tumor, 20% to 30% of the cases. It affects mostly women, and it grows in the outer brain surface and the ventricular system. This disease appears mostly in adults over 60, and it’s relatively uncommon in children. Most of its symptoms are due to increased intracranial pressure rather than an effect on the brain cells. It also produces spinal cord tumors as the meninges cover throughout the spine as well.
A glial cell tumor is called glioma, but this isn’t a conclusive diagnosis as it has various subtypes. Every kind of glial cell has its type of tumor as well as mixed tumors between themselves. These are astrocytoma, glioblastoma, oligodendroglioma, and ependymoma. Glial tumors are more common in children and people over 70 years old, as they’re primary tumors.
One very frequent primary brain tumor is pituitary gland tumors. Then, there are pineal gland tumors, craniopharyngiomas, and primary germ cell tumors, but they are quite uncommon.
Secondary brain tumors are the most frequent type of brain tumor. They affect mostly adults as they come from cancer metastases that are more frequent in older adults. Metastasis is when the cancer cells separate from the core tumor and, in this case, produce a metastatic brain tumor.
What are the causes and risk factors for brain tumors?
There are not still some precise causes that doctors can point at for primary brain tumors, although there’re various risks. A very small percentage of brain tumors come from a hereditary feature, comparing to other types. For example, there is a strong association with a genetic component in breast cancer, meaning it goes through generations. If another person in your family had breast cancer, you have to take more preventive methods than people that don’t.
With brain tumors, if another person in the family had one, others should not worry as much as other types, like breast cancer, for example, although it is still a factor doctors some doctors take into account. Age is a strong risk factor depending on the type of tumor since they attack different age groups. Tumors like meningioma usually affect older people rather than children like in most gliomas.
In comparison, secondary brain tumors appear after the age of 40 habitually, as they come from cancer in other places. Exposure to radiation in the area can be a detonator for brain cancer. It can occur in patients receiving radiation therapy or exposure to nuclear residues, like in an unsafe nuclear plant.
Some chemicals can generally cause cancer, although there hasn’t been an association to any in particular. The ugly truth is that scientists have not found a specific threat or cause for brain cancer right now.
For secondary tumors, we have to look at the main causes of lung, skin, breast, and kidney cancer. These are the leading secondary brain tumor causes. Smoking is widely known as a cancer-inducing activity for the lungs, among many other health issues it causes. Exposure to the sun chronically, specifically sunbathing, is harmful to the skin and can cause skin cancer. Family history of breast cancer and kidney cancer are relevant in evaluating the risk of getting the illness.
Which part of your brain is affected by the tumor, and what does this region of the brain do?
Some tumors are more prone to appear in a specific lobe of the brain, and each has diverse functions. The affection of a lobe or another will produce different symptoms and will have dissimilar prospects for the future.
For example, the frontal lobe is in charge of a person’s behavior and motivations, as well as the person’s body mobility. It also is responsible for planning, thinking, and part of the personality itself.
It’s important to reminisce that the whole brain is wired together and in constant communication between its different parts. This means some functions depend on other features as well, and some lobes participate in other tasks.
The parietal lobe is in charge of sensations, the world’s perception, and spatial recognition, distinguishing things, etc. Vision is the occipital lobe’s main task, this being the smallest lobe and located in the head’s back. The temporal lobe’s assignments are to keep short and long-term memory of things, emotions, produce speech, and understand it.
Most types of primary tumors can directly affect any part of the brain. A meningioma that comes from the outer brain membrane doesn’t directly compromise the brain tissue but can compress it.
Other areas like the medulla and the pons can affect many nerves that are born there. For example, the ones in charge of face movements, sensations, or the ones in charge of eye movements. The cerebellum is a part of the brain that coordinates the body’s actions in real-time as we move. The pituitary gland localizes in the base of the skull and controls most of the body’s hormones.
What are the common brain tumor symptoms? How do you feel when you have a brain tumor?
Brain tumors, especially at the beginning of the disease, may show no symptoms at all. This can make the disease even more dangerous as it prompts for it to go undetected. If it isn’t detected, it can continue growing until it becomes fatal.
The most common brain tumor symptoms are the presence of recurrent headaches that are atypical for the person. Some people regularly suffer from migraines that are a type of headache, but these are quite different.
The brain tumor headaches typically occur in the mornings when the patient wakes up and is also sleeping. They usually come in the company of other symptoms that the patient mention rather than alone. Regular headaches generally come at any hour of the day, and there are associations to a possible cause like stress.
Patients can also suffer from seizures or convulsions, which alone can be quite dangerous. In these, the patient can lose consciousness and have violent body shakes in which an injury can occur.
Usually, seizures appear in childhood. If they appear at an older age for the first time is a bad sign. Another typical symptom is dizziness, represented as tripping and difficulty walking, with no other problem present to explain the cause.
Increased intracranial pressure due to a tumor can cause drowsiness, nausea, and vomiting, which is a classic sign. Many other symptoms are depending on which part of the brain has the tumor. For example, a patient can suffer from motor changes like decreased strength on one side of their body. This happens if it affects the frontal lobe as it is in charge of movement or the spinal cord.
Which are some uncommon brain tumor symptoms?
Some brain tumors are rarer than others, as well as the symptoms they come with. A pituitary tumor produces different hormones depending on which type of tumor cells are present.
Since the pituitary gland is accountable for secreting various hormones, the cells for each are different, and so are the tumors. If the tumor produces growth hormone in children, it leads to gigantism, a disease in which they overgrow. In adults, this hormone’s excess leads to cartilage and bone growth, hypertension, high blood sugar, sleep problems, etc.
A thyroid-stimulating hormone excess leads to more thyroid hormone in the body, a hormone that increases metabolism. This causes nervousness, trembling, irritability, increased heart rate, hypertension, hair, and weight loss, and an increase in sweating.
Prolactin is another hormone made by the pituitary gland, and its main function is to produce breast milk. When it gets over-made, it causes untimely milk secretion in women and men. It can also weaken the bones, reduce sex drive, cause infertility and menstrual problems, and incapability of having an erection.
Finally, some tumors secrete a hormone that leads to the increase of corticoids in the body. This causes weight gain, high blood pressure and blood sugar, stretch marks, and bruising. Some tumors can produce more than just one hormone type, mixing the previously described symptoms depending on the case.
The growth in the size of this particular tumor can cause sight problems and even blindness. This is because the pituitary gland is under the optic nerve, which allows eyesight. Sometimes people with this tumor do not have any of these symptoms, and if they do, it is relatively uncommon.
How do you detect a brain tumor early?
Brain tumors are hard to detect in the early stages by the sole fact that no one is looking for them. Since most of them don’t present any symptoms at the beginning of the disease, people don’t go to the doctor.
Sometimes doctors find tumors by accident in these early stages when checking for another problem and do further studies. If a patient has symptoms that merit doing tests, there are various that function accordingly.
Blood tests are part of the routine while checking in for any illness since it can reveal important information. Most of the time, cancer tumors produce changes in the numbers of white blood cells, varying with type and severity. These can change with many other diseases, but it is the first step in identifying a tumor.
The best way to diagnose a brain tumor is through imaging studies like an MRI or a CT scan. It is fundamental for the brain tumor diagnosis to perform an MRI as it has the best resolution. The application of a contrast, which is a liquid that helps differentiate structures, elevates the MRI’s quality.
Since an MRI uses a magnetic force, patients with metallic implants cannot receive this procedure. Some patients may also have trouble with claustrophobia while having the evaluation, meaning they cannot receive the procedure.
A CT scan is the next best thing to detect a brain tumor’s presence in these cases. Another advantage this exam has is that it is cheaper and more available worldwide than an MRI. The disadvantage is that the image is not always as straightforward as in an MRI, compelling further tests. Other imaging studies, like positron emission tomography, can apply as well.
What treatment is available for brain tumors? Can brain tumors be cured?
Brain tumors are difficult to treat because of all the blood vessels and important brain structures surrounding the lesion. A simple error while applying any type of treatment can be counterproductive and do more damage than good.
The most familiar brain tumor treatment of choice is surgery. In this, the surgeon tries to get rid of the mass as much as possible without damaging the periphery. Often, a surgery functions too as a diagnosis method by doing a biopsy of the tumor. This identifies the precise type of tumor, which helps in applying an additional treatment.
If the mass is too big or complicated for surgery, there are other options to cure the brain tumor. Radiation is a frequently applied method for the treatment of malignant tumors in any part of the body. The radiation waves affect the DNA of the cells, slowing or fully stopping the cell division and replication. This treatment doesn’t always work right away, and other treatments like surgery are a necessity before or after surgery.
Radiation harms too the healthy cells close to the lesion, and its overuse can cause other cancers. Stereotactic radiosurgery is a more precise way to apply radiation to the tumor without affecting cells nearby. This technically isn’t a surgery as there is no need to open the cranium or even the skin. Small radiation lasers point to the mass from the outside, allowing a more defined treatment.
Chemotherapy is another cancer treatment a patient can receive for malignant tumors. In this, the patient takes a medication that kills the tumor cells but also kills other cells. Thankfully the body most of the time can recover those other cells more than the tumor can.
How bad is a brain tumor?
Most brain tumors are a very bad sign and don’t have good outlooks for the future. These are complicated diseases, mostly because of their sensible locations, aggressiveness, and development speed.
Some consequences of a brain tumor can be very negative and even be permanent after receiving treatment. Examples of this are blindness, paralysis, memory loss, behavioral changes, cognitive decrease, and many others.
Additional complicated aspects are the side effects a person can suffer from the treatment. Radiotherapy for a long time can cause mental deficiency permanently or even lead to other cancer formations. As with most cancers, there is a risk of it coming back months or even years later. This is very unpredictable between patients, since every case is unique.
A childhood brain tumor is a horrifying scenario, and it is the most common solid tumor for children. Some of them, like astrocytoma, have good survival rates but others like glioblastoma don’t. Compared with an adult brain tumor, kids are still growing, and the damages could affect their future critically. Just using chemotherapy and radiotherapy has detrimental effects on the brain’s development and the whole body.
What diseases can be similar to this condition?
Brain tumors can be similar to various diseases in terms of symptoms, making the diagnosis more complicated. Virtually, most diseases that affect the brain area can resemble a brain tumor.
Encephalitis, inflammation of the brain due to an infection, produces similar symptoms to a brain tumor. In this case, hematology and inflammation markers in the blood can orientate whether it is an infection or not.
In some cases, Strokes are similar to a brain tumor, and it is recognizable with an imaging study. An MRI or CT scan can differentiate the two cases, taking into consideration all the signs and symptoms.
If the patient only has mental decline symptoms like memory loss, a healthcare professional might believe dementia. This is why it is important to consider this type of disease, especially in people over 70. In dementia, the onset of the disease is usually slow. Still, it can vary, and depending on the tumor, and the symptoms can vary too.
Do you have brain tumor symptoms?
This is a Brain Tumor Symptoms Checker. It gathers the most important signs, symptoms, and risk factors for this condition. Therefore, the tool will tell anybody who uses it the likelihood of their symptoms because of a brain tumor. This would warrant further testing. Using this tool is free and would only take a few minutes.