Our brain and central nervous system control how we act, the way we move, what we remember, and the fundamental aspects of our personality. And so when our brain function is threatened by illness, the impacts can be overwhelming and frustrating. Cancerous brain tumors are among the illnesses we face that may pose a threat to healthy brain activity.

Overview of brain tumors

Brain tumors, which are a group of abnormal cancer cells developing and growing in the brain, can emerge in childhood or adulthood and can affect both males and females. There are different types of tumors that can form in the brain, depending on the cells which have mutated. 

Primary brain tumors are tumors that start first in the brain, and are classified by the type of brain cell that makes up the tumor. The most common primary brain tumors are called gliomas. These begin in the glial, or supportive, tissue of the brain. Cancer cells that started growing in another organ, like the lung, breast, skin, or kidney, and then spread to the brain are secondary brain tumors, or metastatic brain tumors.

While there is no clear cause of brain tumors, there are some factors that may put people at higher risk. Individuals exposed to radiation, dangerous chemicals, or those with immune disorders or carrying certain genes may be more likely to develop brain tumors.

Who is at-risk?

Cancerous brain and spinal cord tumors are the second most common cancers affecting children. Brain tumors develop most often in children younger than age 10; however, the chance of getting brain or nervous system cancer increases in middle-aged and elderly adults.

Symptoms

While some symptoms of a brain tumor are more serious, others are similar to symptoms we see in other more common illnesses. Some of the most common symptoms are headaches, seizures, nausea, and weakness or numbness in one side of the body. Individuals suffering from brain tumors may also experience changes in vision and speech, increased sleepiness and difficulty staying alert, or even memory trouble. 

Brain tumors can also cause sudden changes in personality or mood. If these symptoms exist, doctors can determine whether a brain tumor is present by conducting diagnostic tests. A PET, MRI, or CT scan may be performed to determine whether there are any other areas on the body with cancer. Oncologists may also test the fluid found in central nervous system to confirm if cancer cells are present. If a tumor is found, your doctor may remove part of it to learn more about the cells and how to best treat the cancer.

Treatment

Brain tumors can be treated. Surgery to remove the tumor is often considered, depending on the size and position of the tumor in the brain. Physicians and oncologists may also speak to you about radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of both. Intermountain cancer specialists have been successful in treating brain tumors and other forms of cancer, and helping those recover quickly to live a healthier, cancer-free life.


© 2018 Intermountain Healthcare. All rights reserved. The content presented here is for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, and it should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.