Cancer of the brain is usually referred to as a brain tumor. However brain tumors themselves can be benign, with no cancer cells, or malignant, with cancer cells that grow quickly.
Pediatric brain tumors are the leading cause of cancer-related death among children and adolescents ages 0-19, surpassing leukemia. Brain tumors are the second leading cause of cancer death in male adults ages 20-29 and the fifth leading cause of cancer death in female adults ages 20-39. Metastatic brain tumors, cancer that spreads from other parts of the body to the brain, are the most common types of brain tumors. 80% of cancers have been associated with the ability to metastasize to the brain. This year more than 200,000 people in the US will be diagnosed with a primary or metastatic brain tumors.
Understanding Brain Cancer
There are two main categories of brain cancer: primary which starts in the brain itself and metastatic which starts somewhere else in the body and migrates to the brain. There are over 120 different types of brain tumors which make effective treatment complicated. Tumors, whether malignant or non-malignant (benign) can be injurious or life threatening. For more in depth information about brain cancer, please visit the National Cancer Institute
Symptoms of brain cancer are often hard to distinguish from other less serious conditions. They can include headaches, usually worse in the morning; nausea or vomiting; changes in your ability to talk, hear or see; problems with balance or walking; problems with thinking or memory; muscle jerking or twitching; and numbness or tingling in arms or legs. While these are the most common symptoms of a brain tumor, they can also indicate other medical problems. If you are having any of these symptoms, it is important to see your doctor to get a diagnosis.
Doctors diagnose brain tumors by doing a neurological exam and tests including an MRI, CT scan and biopsy. People with brain tumors have several treatment options. At present, the standard treatments for brain tumors include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. These treatments may be used either individually or in combination. Steroids may be used to reduce inflammation and control brain swelling.