In recent years, discussion on brain cancer and tumours has increased. While brain cancer isn’t considered to be one of the most common types of cancer that one could be diagnosed with, it still affects an estimated 3,000 Canadians and 23,000 Americans each year. While researchers still haven’t been able to pinpoint exactly why brain tumours develop, much more is known about their symptoms, and they are therefore easier to detect earlier. There has also been a significant progression in treatment along the years.
Given that there are as many as 100 different types of brain tumours and that they can appear in different parts of the brain, symptoms can oftentimes be vague as well as vary in intensity from person to person. In fact, you can develop symptoms of a brain tumour quickly or gradually — but the symptoms will usually always progress over time. One of the most common initial signs of a brain tumor is head pain — usually described as a headache. While having a headache every now and then isn’t necessarily a specific indicator of a brain tumour (as headaches and migraines are both very common), it can be a potential indicator if your headaches are recurring, worsen over time, or if they do not get better by taking over-the-counter pain relievers (such as Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen.) Headaches associated with brain tumours can also be brought on my something as simple as leaning over (as this causes an increase in pressure in the brain), or you can even wake up with a headache.
Someone with a brain tumour may also develop cognitive changes, as well as balance and muscle problems. Cognitive changes can include memory lapses, such as forgetting where you put things or asking the same questions repeatedly — or, you may also have difficult answering questions that are posed to you. You can also develop behavioural changes, though these are usually first noticed by those who are close to you or around you often, such as friends, family, or co-workers. If there is a tumour growth in the cerebellum, this can lead to issues with balance and coordination; for example, dropping things, bumping into things, or even tripping and falling from time to time, a s well as loss of muscle strength, and even one-sided paralysis. Seizures are also possible as brain tumours progress, and more than 40% of individuals with a brain tumour will have at least one seizure to due interference in the brain’s normal electrical activity. It’s also possible to have a partial seizure, which can include symptoms such as trouble speaking, smelling strand odours that others cannot detect, as well as uncontrollable arm shaking.
When it comes to diagnosing brain tumours, they are often detected through MRI or CT scans — and while radiation, chemotherapy and surgery are often the standard treatments, there are also other types of treatment methods that oncologists recommend depending on the type of tumour that the patent has been diagnosed with. For example, patients with glioblastoma have undergone an advanced treatment method known as optune therapy in which the patient wears a cap-like device that then transmits electrical currents to disrupt the cancer-cell division. Immunotherapy is another treatment method used to attack tumours and help reengineer immune cells and kill/remove the tumour cells from your body. In addition to brain tumours, immunotherapy is also used on other types of cancer, such as melanoma. For tumours that are difficult to reach surgically, a heat treatment known as later interstitial thermal therapy is also an option. It is also commonly used on patients who suffer from drug-resistant forms of epilepsy and is considered to be minimally invasive and has a quicker recovery time.
Originally published at alighahary.ca on April 4, 2019.