What is Brain Cancer?

When brain cells grow in abnormality, it is called brain tumour. While a brain tumour is a broader term, it can be both: cancerous (malignant) and noncancerous (benign). The malignant brain tumours come with a bunch of symptoms like confusion, sleepiness, seizures, behavioural changes and loss of balance etc. The noncancerous brain tumours also have almost the same symptoms.

Types of Brain Cancer

Among all the brain cancer types, Glioblastoma is the most common one. This is an adult cancer developing a type of brain cells called the Glial cell.

Glioblastoma can be classified into primary Glioblastoma and secondary Glioblastoma.

Primary Brain Cancer

When a Malignant Glioblastoma first appears as ‘grade 4 Glioblastoma’, it is considered as primary stage cancer. Malignant brain tumours grow tremendously faster than benign tumours. This type of abnormal growth of cells keeps growing spoiling the normal growth of the rest of the brain. Whether cancer will return or not depends on the stage when it is diagnosed.

Secondary brain cancer

Secondary brain cancer is considered when the cancer has spread from one body part to another. For Glioblastoma, it develops from a lower grade brain tumour, Astrocytoma.

Glioblastoma Multiforme is an aggressive central nervous system tumour that affects the brain or the spine.

Metastatic Brain Cancer

Metastatic Brain Cancer is a type of cancer formed in different parts of the body and the cancerous cells travel to the brain through metastasis.

Causes of Brain Cancer

The most important fact about brain cancer is, there is no definitive cause of it discovered till now. There is no proven precaution for Brain Cancer so far as well. Exposure to radiation and genetic makeup are very few of the proven risk factors of brain cancer.

For 1 out of 20 cases, an inherited gene is responsible for brain cancer. Meningioma and Glioma are 2 types of brain tumours that mostly happen because of reactions from radiotherapy in the head at childhood. The chances increase manifold if the patient was 5 years or less when the radiation was given.

Is brain cancer curable?

Is there any cure for brain cancer? Does early detection help in curing brain cancer?

These questions come first when you hear the word Brain Cancer.

The answer to it is, it depends on individual cases.

Brain cancer is quite prone to spread from one part of the brain to another. Therefore, in spite of successful treatment at the first time, chances are always there for brain cancer to return.

Whether a tumour will return or not depends on factors like :

  • The stage when diagnosed
  • The location of the tumour
  • How successful the surgery was
  • Whether it’s molecular or genetic make-up

Brain Cancer Symptoms

Brain cancer symptoms largely vary from person to person and greatly depend on the age and other physical conditions. Brain cancer symptoms can clearly be classified into 2 categories: symptoms among children and symptoms among adult.

Brain cancer symptoms among children

  • Persistent feelings of nausea and vomiting for more than 2 weeks
  • Delayed or arrested puberty
  • Abnormal eye movements
  • Recurring headache on walking for more than 4 weeks
  • Blurred vision or double vision
  • Sudden behavioural changes
  • Frequent seizures
  • Head tilt and other abnormal head position
  • Problem in coordination, walking and abnormal balance

Brain cancer symptoms among adult

  • Throbbing or a dull headache
  • Blurred vision, difficulty in reading and watching TV
  • Seizures or fits
  • Drowsiness and more sleep than usual
  • Disruption of normal brain function

Side effects of Brain Cancer

Living with brain cancer can heavily disrupt regular lifestyle by affecting different parts of the brain. Some of the most daunting side effects of Brain Cancer are:

  • Changes in mood and general character
  • Memory difficulties and forgetting
  • Difficulty in communicating and understanding languages
  • Epilepsy
  • Severe depression
  • Long-term learning difficulty (cognitive disorder)

Treatment of Brain Cancer

Radiation therapy, chemotherapy and surgery are the 3 most prominent treatments of Brain Cancer.

The type of treatment is largely dependent on one’s age.

Brain Cancer treatment for children:

  • Neurosurgery (possibility depends on individual patient)
  • Radiotherapy (possibility depends on how much the child’s body can take)
  • Chemotherapy (often incorporated with other treatments)
  • Steroids (mainly given to treat the side effects)
  • Proton Beam Therapy (targeted radiotherapy; not suitable for all types of tumour)

Brain Cancer treatment for adults

Apart from Neurosurgery, Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy, here are few more treatment procedures that are used only in adults:

  • Stereotactic Radiotherapy (radiotherapy treatment with 3D image locator)
  • Watching out (often very first stages are observed to understand the pattern)
  • Temozolomide (chemotherapy drug for high-grade gliomas)
  • Immunotherapy (using body’s own immune system to fight cancer)

Leukemia and Brain Cancer spreads very rapidly. Metastatic brain tumours are the types of cancers that start at one part of the body and reach the brain. The most common types of cancers which spread to the brain are:

  • Colon Cancer
  • Breast Cancer
  • Lung Cancer
  • Kidney Cancer
  • Melanoma
Content Reviewed By: Dr.Kunal Bahrani