Clearview Cancer Center Treats Malignant Brain Cancer in Huntsville
What is a Brain Cancer Tumor?
Brain tumors are masses or growths of aberrant brain cells.
There are numerous types of brain tumors. Some brain tumors are noncancerous (benign), while others are malignant (malignant). Brain cancers can originate in the brain (primary brain tumors) or in other parts of the body and spread to the brain (secondary, metastatic) as secondary brain tumors.
The rate at which a brain tumor grows might vary considerably. The effect of a brain tumor on your nervous system is determined by the tumor’s growth pace and location.
Tumors for Brain Treatment
Brain tumor treatment depends on a number of criteria, including the tumor’s form, location, and size, as well as the patient’s age and general health. The treatment methods and timelines for children and adults are distinct.
Brain tumors are treated surgically, with radiation therapy, and with chemotherapy. Our experts are also researching a vaccination for the treatment of glioma, a recurring cancer of the central nervous system that mostly affects the brain.
Depending on your requirements, many methods may be implemented. Together, our neurosurgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, nurses, dietician, and social worker deliver the finest possible treatment.
Radiation and Chemotherapy Treatment
Before beginning treatment, steroids are given to the majority of patients to reduce swelling or edema. You may be prescribed an anticonvulsant to prevent or treat seizures.
If hydrocephalus is present, a shunt to drain cerebrospinal fluid may be necessary. A shunt is a long, thin tube inserted into a ventricle of the brain and then connected subcutaneously to another part of the body, typically the belly. It functions as a drainpipe. Absorption of excess fluid from the brain occurs in the belly. In certain situations, fluid is drained into the heart.
The most common therapy for brain tumors is surgery. In order to remove a brain tumor, a neurosurgeon creates a hole in the skull. This procedure is known as a craniotomy. The surgeon strives to remove the entire tumor whenever possible. If the tumor cannot be removed completely without causing damage to important brain tissue, your doctor may remove as much of the tumor as possible. Partial removal alleviates symptoms by reducing pressure on the brain and minimizes the quantity of tumor that must be treated with radiation or chemotherapy.
Some tumors are inoperable. In such circumstances, your physician may only do a biopsy. A pathologist will examine a small piece of the tumor under a microscope to discover the kind of cells it contains. This helps your physician determine which treatment to administer.
Symptoms of Brain Tumors
Symptoms of brain tumors can differ depending on the type of tumor or its location and severity. Symptoms caused by brain tumors may include:
- Headache or a feeling of pressure in the brain
- Difficulty with balance
- Changes in behavior patterns such as moodiness, anger, or unexplained personality changes
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of movement or feeling in a limb
- Difficulty with speech and/or hearing
These symptoms can often be caused by other medical conditions as well, so please see your physician if you have experienced any of the above symptoms.
Age – While there are certain types of brain tumors that are more common in children, the risk of adult primary brain tumors increase with age and more commonly seen in older adults.
Radiation Exposure – Ionizing radiation, which includes previous radiation for cancer treatment, has been shown in some studies to link to some forms of brain cancer.
Genetics – A small percentage of some brain tumors has been linked to possible genetic factors. These are usually associated with certain cancer predisposition syndromes such as Li-Fraumeni syndrome, neurofibromatosis, tuberous sclerosis, and Turcot’s syndrome. Scientists are still studying the correlation and prevalence of family clusters of certain types of brain cancers to determine their cause.
Brain Tumor Diagnosis And Treatment
Doctors refer to some brain tumors by grade – from low grade (grade I) to high grade (grade IV). The grade of a tumor refers to the way the cells look under a microscope. Research and advancement in surgical techniques over the last 20 years have greatly increased the survival rates for patients with brain tumors. Targeted radiation and a better understanding of optimal chemotherapy regimens have not only lengthened the patients’ lives, but also produced less side effects and quicker recoveries. Treatment for a brain tumor depends on a number of factors. Among these are the type, location, and size of the tumor, as well as the patient’s age and general health. Brain tumors are treated with surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy; depending on the patient’s needs, several methods may be used.
Before treatment begins, most patients are given steroids, which are drugs that relieve swelling (edema). They may also be given anticonvulsant medicine to prevent or control seizures. If hydrocephalus is present, the patient may need a shunt to drain the cerebrospinal fluid. A shunt is a long, thin tube placed in a ventricle of the brain and then threaded under the skin to another part of the body, usually the abdomen. It works like a drainpipe: Excess fluid is carried away from the brain and is absorbed in the abdomen. (In some cases, the fluid is drained into the heart.)
Surgery is the usual treatment for most brain tumors. To remove a brain tumor, a neurosurgeon makes an opening in the skull. This operation is called a craniotomy. Whenever possible, the surgeon attempts to remove the entire tumor. However, if the tumor cannot be completely removed without damaging vital brain tissue, the doctor removes as much of the tumor as possible. Partial removal helps to relieve symptoms by reducing pressure on the brain and reduces the amount of tumor to be treated by radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
Some tumors cannot be removed. In such cases, the doctor may do only a biopsy. A small piece of the tumor is removed so that a pathologist can examine it under a microscope to determine the type of cells it contains. This helps the doctor decide which treatment to use and decide if targeted therapy is an option. In certain cases the biopsy is done with a needle, also known as stereotaxis. The surgeon uses robotic navigation to make a small hole in the skull and then guides a needle to the tumor.
Many patients and their families want to learn all they can about brain tumors and the treatment choices so they can take an active part in decisions about medical care. The doctor is the best person to answer these questions. When discussing treatment, the patient may want to talk with the doctor about research studies and clinical trials of new treatment methods.
Types of Brain Tumors
Tumors that begin in brain tissue are known as primary brain tumors and are classified by the type of tissue in which they begin. The most common brain tumors are gliomas, which begin in the glial (supportive) tissue. There are several types of gliomas:
- Astrocytomas arise from small, star-shaped cells called astrocytes. They may grow anywhere in the brain or spinal cord. In adults, however, astrocytomas most often arise in the cerebrum.
- Brain stem gliomas occur in the lowest, stemlike part of the brain. The brain stem controls many vital functions. Tumors in this area generally cannot be removed. Most brain stem gliomas are high-grade astrocytomas.
- Ependymomas usually develop in the lining of the ventricles. They may also occur in the spinal cord.
- Oligodendrogliomas arise in the cells that produce myelin, the fatty covering that protects nerves. These tumors usually arise in the cerebrum. They grow slowly and usually do not spread into surrounding brain tissue. Oligodendrogliomas are rare and occur most often in middle-aged adults.
There are other types of brain tumors that do not begin in glial tissue. Some of the most common are described below:
- Medulloblastomas were once thought to develop from glial cells. However, recent research suggests that these tumors develop from primitive (developing) nerve cells that normally do not remain in the body after birth. For this reason, medulloblastomas are sometimes called primitive neuroectodermal tumors (PNET).
- Meningiomas grow from the meninges. They are usually benign. Because these tumors grow very slowly, the brain may be able to adjust to their presence; meningiomas often grow quite large before they cause symptoms. They occur most often in women between 30 and 50 years of age.
- Schwannomas are benign tumors that begin in Schwann cells, which produce the myelin that protects the acoustic nerve – the nerve of hearing. These tumors affect women twice as often as men.
- Craniopharyngiomas develop in the region of the pituitary gland near the hypothalamus. They are usually benign; however, they are sometimes considered malignant because they can press on or damage the hypothalamus and affect vital functions.
- Germ cell tumors arise from primitive (developing) sex cells, or germ cells. The most frequent type of germ cell tumor in the brain is the germinoma.
Pineal region tumors occur in or around the pineal gland, a tiny organ near the center of the brain. The tumor can be slow growing (pineocytoma) or fast growing (pineoblastoma). The pineal region is very difficult to reach, and these tumors often cannot be removed.