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Brain Cancer

Brain cancer is the growth of abnormal cells in the tissues of the brain. Brain tumors can be benign or malignant. Brain tumors are grouped by grade. The grade of the tumor refers to the way the cells look under a microscope. Cells from low grade tumors (grade 1 and 2) look more normal and generally grow more slowly than cells from high grade tumors (grades 3 and 4). Over time a low grade tumor may become a high grade tumor. There are many types of primary brain tumors. Tumors are named according to the type of cells or the part of the brain in which they begin.

Most primary tumors begin in glial cells. This type of tumor is called a glioma. Among adults, the most common types of tumors are; 1. astrocytomas which arise from star-shaped glial cells called astrocytes. It can be any grade and most often occurs in the cerebrum. 2. Meningioma is a tumor that arises in the meninges. It can be grades 1, 2, or 3. It is usually benign and grows slowly. 3. Oligodendroglioma which the tumor that arises from cells that make the fatty substance that covers and protects nerves. It usually occurs in the cerebrum. It’s most common in middle-aged adults. It can be grade 2 or 3.

No one knows the exact cause of brain tumors. Researchers are studying whether people with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop a brain tumor. Studies have found the following as risk factors for brain tumors: ionizing radiation and family history. Symptoms of a brain tumor depend on tumor size, type, and location. Symptoms may be caused when a tumor presses on a nerve or harms a part of the brain. They also may be caused when a tumor blocks the fluid that flows through and around the brain, or when the brain swells because of the buildup of fluid. The most common symptoms of brain tumors are headaches, nausea and vomiting, changes in speech, vision, or hearing, problems balancing or walking, changes in mood, personality, or ability to concentrate, problems with memory, muscle jerking, or twitching, and numbness or tingling in the arms or legs.

If you have symptoms that exhibit a brain tumor your doctor will give you a physical exam and ask about your personal and family health history. Additional tests including neurologic exam, MRI, CT scan, angiogram, spinal tap, and biopsy may be done also. A biopsy is the removal of tissue to look for tumor cells. Biopsies are done by a surgeon and sent to a pathologist to evaluate the tissue under a microscope for diagnosis and grade. Once testing is complete, treatment options are discussed with the patient. Brain cancer treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. The choice of treatment depends on the type and grade of brain tumor, its location in the brain, its size, and your age and general health. A treatment plan that is best for you will then be decided upon by you and your physician.

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