Brain Cancer (Neurological Cancers)
A neurological disease, brain cancer can grow aggressively and cause seizures, muscle weakness, behavioral changes and hearing loss. When abnormal cells form in the brain, they force out healthy ones and cause tumors to develop. These tumors often start in the brain or in nearby tissues, such as the outer covering of the brain called the meninges, the cranial nerves or the pituitary and pineal glands. Although the exact cause of brain cancer is unknown, your risk increases if you smoke cigarettes, have been exposed to radiation to the head, or have been exposed to certain chemicals. Cancerous tumors that spread can interfere with our central nervous system, which controls all of our bodys processes. Tumors that begin in the brain are much more rare than tumors that begin elsewhere and then spread to the brain. Cancers that start in the breast, colon, kidney or lungs commonly spread to the brain.
1 AnswerApproximately 50% of patients who have brain tumors report headaches. However, it's only very specific types of chronic headaches -- those that wake you up in the middle of the night or in the morning -- that may indicate a brain tumor and should be brought immediately to your doctor's attention. If you're concerned your headaches could be something more serious, keep a diary for two weeks. Use this diary to include details such as when, where and what time you had headaches and to what severity. See your doctor to review its contents.
1 AnswerHere are some brain cancer prevention solutions:
- Use an Earpiece With Your Cell Phone: As a precaution, limit radiation exposure from your cell phone by using an earpiece. Or use the speakerphone function. Encourage your family members, especially children and teenagers, to do the same.
- Keep a Headache Diary: If you're concerned your headaches could be something more serious, keep a diary for two weeks. Include details such as when, where and what time you had headaches and to what severity. Are they like migraines or other types of headaches you've experienced before? Then see your doctor to review its contents.
- Eliminate Cooked Ham, Processed Pork and Fried Bacon: Meat products such as cooked ham, processed pork and fried bacon contain a lot of nitrates, which may be connected to brain cancer and other cancers as well.
1 AnswerThe following are some risk factors for brain cancer:
- You're Over 50 Years Old: Brain cancer occurs most frequently between the ages of 55 and 65. If you fall within this age range, be aware if you experience symptoms tied to brain tumors.
- Three or More Computed Axial Tomography (CAT) Scans to Head/Neck Area: In general, a CAT scan releases ionizing radiation, which can be damaging. What's more, data suggests that one-third of all CAT scans carried out in the United States are unnecessary. The research linking three or more CAT scans of the head or neck area to brain cancer was found in people who had a family history of this disease. Be a smart patient if you are in a situation where a CAT scan is recommended and discuss alternative tests, such as an MRI.
- Heavy Cell-Phone Use: The link between heavy cell-phone use and brain cancer is a highly debated issue. However, bear in mind that cell-phone use is still in its early stages, and the data on its dangers is currently inconclusive. However, it's still wise to follow precautionary measures.
1 AnswerAurora Health Care answeredSome of the treatments used for neurological cancers include:
- Radiation therapy: A sophisticated and effective way to treat many kinds of cancer, radiation oncology uses highly advanced technology and innovative treatment techniques to destroy cancer cells or to prevent diseased cells from growing.
- Gamma Knife: Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a state-of-the-art treatment for both benign and malignant brain tumors, arteriovenous malformations (AVMs), and functional neurological disorders.
- Surgery: Some neurological cancers are confined and accessible enough to be effectively removed surgically. Surgery is often combined with chemotherapy, radiation, or immunotherapy. Sophisticated brain mapping is used to ensure that the senses are not hindered as a result of surgery.
- Chemotherapy: Advances in the effectiveness of cancer-fighting drugs have kept chemotherapy at the forefront in the fight against cancer. Often used in combination with other therapies, chemotherapy is frequently used to combat cancers with or without radiation therapy and surgery.
- Autologous stem cell treatment (ASCT): Some cancers once considered untreatable are being successfully treated with autologous stem cell treatment. While research has shown that certain cancers are more effectively treated (and the risk of recurrence can be dramatically reduced) by treating them with higher doses of chemotherapy, that can result in bone marrow failure.
- Cancer immunotherapy: The ability of the immune system to identify and destroy tumor cells has led to its use in cancer treatment. By stimulating the body's immune system, cancer cells may be destroyed without damaging healthy tissue. Cellular cancer vaccines use a patient's cells to trigger the immune system to attack cancerous cells. While traditional vaccines are used to prevent an illness from taking hold, cancer vaccines are used to prevent the existing cancer from spreading, thereby reducing the risk of recurrence.
1 AnswerAurora Health Care answeredThe best treatment for neurologic cancers requires a multidisciplinary team approach. Patients can benefit from multidisciplinary case reviews, which can include specialists from various disciplines.
- Neurosurgeon: a physician trained in surgery of the nervous system and who specializes in surgery on the brain and spinal cord
- Cancer Nurse Navigator: a registered nurse with special training who can help answer questions and provide information on resources and support services
- Medical oncologist: a physician specializing in treating cancer with chemotherapy, hormonal therapy or immunotherapy
- Pathologist: a physician who examines tissues and cells under a microscope to determine if they are normal or abnormal
- Radiation oncologist: a physician specializing in treating cancer with radiation therapy
- Radiologist: a physician who uses x-rays and other imaging tests to diagnose disease
2 AnswersAlthough most meningiomas are benign, many require treatment due to their causing mass effect (pushing) on nearby normal brain tissue. Maximal safe neurosurgical resection is the standard of care to treat the vast majority of patients. Postoperative radiation therapy (RT) is generally reserved for patients who undergo less than complete resection (surgical removal) or whose tumors are found to be atypical or malignant upon review by a pathologist. For most patients with benign meningiomas, the likelihood of being free from tumor progression five years after diagnosis is greater than 95%. On the other hand, those with malignant meningiomas have a less than 50% chance of being alive without tumor progression five years after treatment. Focal high-dose stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) may also be used to treat meningiomas. In one large series, more than 90% of patients required no further treatment and were pleased with their outcome.
1 AnswerMeningiomas account for roughly 20% of primary brain tumors and occur more commonly in women than men, by a ratio of roughly two to one. Only 10% of these primary brain tumors are malignant. While many of them are found incidentally at the time of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanning of the brain for other reasons, the most common symptoms that patients may develop include headache and confusion. However, symptoms are largely dependent upon location of the tumor.
1 AnswerPatients who are in reasonable medical condition and have a solitary brain lesion that's located in a place within the brain that can be removed should have maximal safe surgical resection. A couple of major randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have shown that patients who are in excellent condition, have a solitary brain metastasis, and are treated with surgical resection have improved survival over those that receive only whole brain radiation. An RCT of surgery with or without whole brain radiation therapy (RT) revealed that patients who receive postoperative RT to the whole brain have a lower chance of the cancer recurring in the brain, as well as a lower chance of dying form neurologic causes. Therefore, a common treatment for brain metastasis for patients who are in great shape is surgery to remove the gross tumor, followed by whole brain RT to kill residual microscopic cancer cells. Side effects of neurosurgical resection depend largely upon the site of the tumor that is being removed, but also include risk of infection and, rarely, the chance of death.
1 AnswerMore frequently than not, it's determined that a patient has a different type of cancer which metastasized (spread) from another site to the brain. This fact shouldn't be shocking since there are about 170,000 brain metastases diagnosed each year in the United States versus about 20,000 primary brain tumors (exponentially less). Of patients who are diagnosed with brain metastases, roughly half present with single brain lesions. The most common primary tumor sites that spread to the brain are also some of the most common cancers overall: lung and breast.
1 AnswerA small percentage of meningiomas take a more aggressive course and can return or convert to a more malignant type of tumor. Treatment options remain the same for these types of meningiomas: surgery and radiation.
Chemotherapy may also be appropriate for some more aggressive meningiomas. If your tumor returns, be sure to choose an experienced team that can identify the type of tumor and come up with an appropriate treatment plan.