BRAIN TUMOR AWARENESS
OUR AMAZING BRAIN
UNDERSTANDING THE BASICS
Did you know?
The brain is a fascinating organ! It controls everything without “doing” anything. Absolutely amazing. The irony is, very rarely do we “think” about the brain unless something is wrong – headache, injury, or reading a blog like this that is talking about the brain *big grin*
Before embarking on the journey of discussing brain tumors, the basic functions of the brain must be understood and there is a lot to know. There are specialists in Medicine (Neurologists) and Surgery (Neurosurgeons) who dedicate their whole life and career to the central nervous system (CNS), of which the brain is the captain of the ship. Unfortunately, after reading this blog, you will not be a Neurologist or a Neurosurgeon (unless you were one before you started – in which case – hey, thanks for reading my blog!)
What exactly is the function of the brain?
The functions of the brain are many. For ease of explanation, lets take a look at the picture below. Here, the functions of the brain are grouped into various activities, by “geographic” location. The Frontal Lobe is by the forehead, the Temporal Lobe is alongside the ears, the Cerebellum is just above the neck, etc.,
What are the Most Common Brain Tumors
There are over 100 different types of brain tumors that range from benign (non-cancerous) to malignant (cancerous). The most common brain tumors in adults are:
- Metastatic – these are secondary brain tumors, meaning they are originally from another organ in the body. That is, breast cancer that spreads to the brain is termed “metastatic breast cancer to the brain” not a primary brain tumor. Same if it is lung cancer or prostate cancer that spreads to the brain, these cancers in the brain is secondary and is identified from their primary site.
- Meningioma – these are formed from the “lining” of the skull, or the meninges. Some may not think of meningioma as “primary” brain tumors, but whether from the lining, or not, they can grow and push on the brain leading to symptoms
- Glioblastoma – this is the most common “primary” brain tumor, meaning there is no question about it’s origin, it is from the brain. Unfortunately, it is also very lethal. You may have heard about it the headlines from taking the lives of Senator Ted Kennedy, Senator John McCain and the son of Former Vice President Joe Biden, Beau Biden.
Other common primary brain tumors are listed below:
The list of symptoms associated with brain tumors are many and general enough that some people may not be alarmed by them, at first. However, I encourage you to see your doctor if there are any new development/changes in your function. It may not be related to a brain tumor, but let your PCM know and they will figure it out with you. If it is taking longer than you like, it is politically correct (and your right, some may add) to ask for a referral to a specialist. Here are some basics to get you started.
- The brain is protected by a hard skeletal “shell” call the skull
- The skull protects, but it also confines the brain in the process – no extra space for the brain to move around
- Any growth/tumor that is benign (non-cancerous), or malignant (cancerous) is trying to occupy real-estate that is just not available, pushing against normal brain cells that eventually lead to symptoms
- Headache is the most common symptoms. However, balance or vision changes may also occur, as well as nausea and vomiting. Other symptoms experienced, will greatly depend on the location of the tumor (see image #1 above).
- Stumbling and unable to walk in a general intended direction – tumor likely in Cerebellum
- Able to think clearly, but the words comes out jumbled/incoherent (the cat doorbell upstairs) – tumor likely in the Frontal lobe
- Head injury, or large tumor that causes global swelling affecting ability to breath – Brainstem is being pushed upon, or tumor in the brainstem
Treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy (TTF, steroids and ongoing trials may also be discussed with your Oncologist). The type of treatment recommended will depend on the type of tumor. A type of radiation known as Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS) is very commonly used in treating some of these tumors with or without surgery. It is important to understand where the tumor is located, what the side effects will be with and without treatment.
If the basics of radiation therapy, chemotherapy and other terminology used in cancer discussion is unfamiliar to you, consider the Cancer 101 course to learn more. You may register for the FREE course HEREand test your cancer knowledge HERE
Life is beautiful and God is awesome. And know, you are pure awesomeness!
Until next time,
Ipsa Scientia Potestas est ——— Knowledge itself is power!
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Queen, Your Family Friendly Cancer Doc!