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Brain tumors Brain tumors
A tumor is a mass or growth of abnormal cells, when the growth is in your brain it's called a brain tumor. There... Brain tumors

by Kimberly Allen R.N.

A tumor is a mass or growth of abnormal cells, when the growth is in your brain it’s called a brain tumor.  There are many types of brain tumors both cancerous and non cancerous.  Brain tumors can affect anyone at any age.  However, they tend to occur more frequently in Caucasians than other races.  There are also certain types of brain tumors that are more prevalent in adults and some that are more prevalent in children.

Brain tumors are classified as primary or secondary.  Brain tumors that are classified as primary begin in the brain or close to it like the membrane that covers the brain, or in the cranial nerves as well as the pituitary and pineal glands.  Primary brain tumors develop because a normal cell develops a mutation in it’s DNA which then reproduce at a faster rate than normal cells and then don’t die off when normal cells would.  Though there are many different types of primary brain tumors they are not nearly as common as secondary brain tumors.  secondary brain tumors are those that are the result of cancer that originates somewhere else in your body.  These are also called metastatic brain tumors and are much more common than primary brain tumors.
In addition to being classified as primary or secondary doctors group them by grades , grade I – IV.  The grade is determined by how abnormal the tumor cells appear under a micrscope as well as how  fast they are likely to grow and spread.  for example tumors that are considered grade I appear similar to normal cells and reproduce and grow slowly while those that  are grade 3 or 4 do not look anything like normal cells and they grow and spread much faster than tumors that are grade I or II.  Tumor grade is not the same as the tumor stage.  The tumor stage reflects the severity and how far it has spread.  Doctors assess different factors to determine  the grade and stage.
When your doctor tells you that you have a brain tumor and you don’t already have cancer somewhere else usually the first question you have is how?  Unfortunately researchers have not been able to determine a cause for primary brain tumors.  No one knows  why one person gets a brain tumor and another doesn’t.  However, studies have discovered certain risk factors that can affect whether or not you develop a primary brain tumor the most common being exposure to ionizing radiation.  Researchers are also studying the effects of being exposed to certain che3miclas in the work place.  Occasionally there is a family history of brain tumors but it is rare.
The symptoms of a brain tumor vary significantly and they tend to depend on the type of brain tumor you have as well as it’s size and location and how fast it’s growing.  However there are some general symptoms you can watch for that may indicate you have a brain tumor.  Those would include the development of headaches or a change in the pattern of headaches.  The headaches will become more severe and occur more frequently.  frequently the vision is affected as well.  You may have blurred or double vision.  Some people experience problems with balance and/or speech, others demonstrate changes in their personality  and behavior including confusion.  Another frequent symptom is seizures especially if you don’t have a history of seizures.
If you are experiencing persistent symptoms of a brain tumor than contact your doctor.  There are a variety of tests available today that your Dr can use to determine if there is a tumor present.  If your doctor diagnoses you with a brain tumor the treatment will depend on the type of brain tumor you have as well as it’s size and location.  Other things that will be considered are your overall health and personal preference.  If possible the doctor will recommend surgery  to remove the tumor, but that’s not always possible.  Sometimes the tumor can’t be separated from the surrounding  tissue  or it can be in an area in your brain that’s sensitive.  In many of these types of situations your Dr radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy to kill the tumor cells.
After treatment for a brain tumor you will most likely require some form of rehabilitation .  The type of  rehab your doctor recommends will depend on the effects of the brain tumor, like speech therapy or physical therapy.
If diagnosed with a brain tumor it’s important to learn as much as you can about the specific type of tumor have been diagnosed with and the types of treatment available.  This way you can make informed decisions about your treatment plan.

More on Brain Tumors

Experts estimate that over 200,000 people are diagnosed with a brain tumor in the US every year.  Including approximately 5,000 children and teens that are diagnosed with a tumor of the central nervous system with at least half developing in children under 15 years of age.  Brain tumors are the number one cause of death by a solid tumor cancer in children under 20 years of age in the US.  Which is more than deaths from acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
A brain tumor is a tumor that develops in the brain or central spinal canal, which is the space that contains the spinal cord, not the spinal cord itself.  A tumor is a mass of abnormal cells that do not follow the life cycle of normal cells.  Normal cells through out our bodies have a specific cycle of birth-aging- dying that they go through.  The abnormal cells do not die off they continue to multiply forming tumors.  Most tumors are defined by different characteristics.  First is it benign or malignant?  Benign tumors do not invade the surrounding tissues where as malignant tumors do.  Tumors are graded from grade I to grade IV.  Low grade tumors tend to grow slowly while the higher grade tumors tend to grow quickly and be aggressive.  Tumors are also characterized by whether or not it’s invasive or localized.  A tumor that is localized is limited to one area and tends to be easier to treat while an invasive tumor spreads easily to the surrounding tissues.  Invasive tumors are much more difficult if not impossible to completely remove.
There are two main types of brain tumors, primary and secondary.  Primary brain tumors are tumors that begin in the brain while secondary brain tumors are the result of tumors that begin somewhere else and then spread to the brain.  Primary brain tumors are not as common as secondary brain tumors are.  Primary tumors begin in areas of the brain like the meninges and cranial nerves as well as the pituitary or pineal glands.  Secondary brain tumors are most frequently caused by cancers that begin in the breast, lung and colon as well as melanoma and unknown primary.
There are currently over 120 different type of brain tumors listed.  Some are benign while others are malignant.  It’s important to understand that just because a tumor is benign that doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous.  Depending on the location benign tumors can be large enough to put pressure on the surrounding area causing a variety of problems.  The symptoms you might experience with a brain tumor is largely dependent on the location, size and type of tumor.  The symptoms can be caused by the pressure of the tumor on surrounding nerves and tissue or because it blocks the flow of cerebral spinal fluid as it flows around and through the brain.  The most frequent symptoms that are complained about are headaches, which may be new or more frequent and severe than in the past, nausea and vomiting as well as vision problems.  There may also be cognitive symptoms like memory loss, confusion, and speech problems, even personality and/or behavior  changes.  Some people experience difficulty with balance or a loss of movement and sensation in their extremities.  New onset of seizures is usually an early indication that something is wrong.
Because of the sheer numbers of brain tumors diagnosis and treatment can be complicated.  Current the accepted treatment for brain tumors includes surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.  These can be used individually or in some combination which usually depends on the type, size, and location of the tumor.  Each tumor is different in each person so your oncologist will discuss which options are the most likely to produce effective results in your individual case.

Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at