Cancer of The Brain and Brain Tumours
A brain tumor is a mass or growth of abnormal cells in your brain. Many different types of brain tumors exist. Some brain tumors are noncancerous (benign), and some brain tumors are cancerous (malignant).
The number of brain tumors diagnosed each year is increasing. There's evidence the increase has been occurring for decades. But it's not clear why.
Causes and Risk Factors
Aside from a known association with exposure to vinyl chloride, there are no known chemical or environmental agents that lead to the development of brain tumors.
Genetic mutations and deletions of tumor suppressor genes (i.e., genes that suppress the development of malignant cells) increase the risk for some types of brain cancer. Inherited diseases that are associated with brain tumors include the following:
Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (pituitary adenoma)
Neurofibromatosis type 2 (brain and spinal cord tumors)
Retinoblastoma (malignant retinal glioma)
Tuberous sclerosis (primary brain tumors)
Von Hippel-Lindau disease (retinal tumor, CNS tumors)
Patients with a history of melanoma, lung, breast, colon, or kidney cancer are at risk for secondary brain cancer.
Exposure to vinyl chloride is an environmental risk factor for brain cancer. Vinyl chloride is a carcinogen, that is, a cancer-causing substance. It is used in manufacturing plastic products such as pipes, wire coatings, furniture, car parts, and housewares, and is present in tobacco smoke.
Manufacturing and chemical plants may release vinyl chloride into the air or water, and it may leak into the environment as a result of improper disposal. People who work in these plants or live in close proximity to them have an increased risk for brain cancer.
Symptoms of Brain Tumors
There are two broad categories of symptoms. The first results from the increase in pressure in the brain as the tumor expands.
The skull is hard and cannot yield, resulting in symptoms such as:
Headache, which is often generalized. It is persistent and worsens with activity, such as straining. It is often worse at night or in the early morning.
Vomiting, which may or may not be associated with nausea. It is more common in children than adults.
Seizures, in an adult without a history of seizures, strongly suggests a brain tumor. Appropriate examinations, including CT or MRI scans, should be done promptly.
Change in mental ability or personality, that may be obvious to the family and not to the patient, or vice versa.
The other category of symptoms has to do with the tumor's location and the pressure effects it produces on nearby structures.
There are many types of local symptoms, including:
Weakness of various parts of the body, especially an arm or a leg
Difficulties in coordination or balance
Impairment of memory
Various vision defects
Changes in sensation
In the case of brain stem tumors - defects in the functioning of nerves that exit from the base of the brain.
These symptoms may help determine the tumor's location.
The primary goal of treatment is to remove the tumor completely. The first option for the treatment and management of brain tumors involves surgery. If surgery is not possible or does not completely remove the tumor, radiation and chemotherapy may be used.
Treatment involves the following:
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