Brain tumor

Brain and spinal cord are the basic part of the central nervous system (CNS), which is responsible for controlling all major functions, including thought, speech, and body movements. As someone develops tumor in the CNS, it start affecting his thought processes and movements. There are four main parts that constitute a brain namely cerebrum, cerebellum, brain stem, and the meninges.

Cerebrum is the largest part of the brain that do various important functions like controlling vision, memory, special senses such as hearing, calculation, reasoning, emotions, problem-solving, expressive speech, and movement.

Cerebellum is accountable for coordination, balance and controls functions on the same side of the body.

Brain stem connects to the spinal cord and controls involuntary functions essential for life, such as the beating of the heart and breathing.

Meninges is the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord.

In a healthy brain numerous living cells grow, divide, die and replaced in a very controlled manner. When this standardized life cycle of a cell gets disturbed by any of internal or external effect, it results in ill growth of cell. The malfunctioning of a normal cells in which it grow uncontrollably, forming a mass or tumor, called cancer. A brain tumor can be low grade (generally not cancerous and slower growing) or high grade (more likely to grow and spread quickly). In most cases, primary brain tumors start in the brain and do not multiply itself to outer of the CNS. These are statistically more frequent in children and older adults. Whereas secondary brain tumor is a cancerous tumor that starts elsewhere in the body (most commonly metastasize to the brain are lung and breast) and then spread to the brain. That’s why it is also called brain metastases. These are more common in adults than children. Further, secondary brain tumor is much more common type of tumor than primary tumors. Nearly 1 in 4 people with cancer will get a secondary brain tumor.

Types of brain tumors

Gliomas is one of the most common types of brain tumor. A glioma is a tumor that grows from a glial cell, which is a supportive cell in the brain. It helps to keep the neurons in place and functioning well. There are two main types of supportive cells: astrocytes and oligodendrocytes. Most gliomas are called either astrocytoma or oligodendroglioma, or a mix of both. The location of the tumor depends on the type of cells from which it originates.

Meningioma is the most common primary brain tumor, making up about 35% of all primary brain tumors. It begins in the meninges(the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord) and is most often noncancerous. Meningioma can cause serious symptoms if it grows and presses on the brain or spinal cord or grows into the brain tissue.

Pituitary adenomas tumors are located in the pineal gland and pituitary gland.

Nerve sheath tumors is a type of tumor of the nervous system (nervous system neoplasm) which is made up primarily of the myelin surrounding nerves.

According to statics sourced from American Brain Tumor Association and the National Cancer Institute about 20% to 40% of patients with other types of cancer (mostly lung, breast or colon) will have it spread to the brain. In the United States for every 100,000 people, approximately 221 are living following the diagnosis of a brain tumor. This represents a prevalence rate of 221.8 per 100,000 persons. Some other factual data collected from Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States Brain tumors tells how massive this disease is:

  • Brain tumor is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in children (males and females) under age 20 (leukemia is the first).
  • Brain tumor is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in males ages 20-39 (leukemia is the first).
  • Brain tumor is fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in females ages 20-39.

However, research in the past two decades has facilitated to appreciably elongate the lives of people with brain tumors. Treatment options may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapy. Though, it is fully subjective for doctors to choose any of the appropriate and effective treatment option or a combination of therapies. Recommendations depend on numerous aspects including the size, type, and grade of the tumor, whether it is putting pressure on vital parts of the brain or it has spread to other parts of the CNS or body, possible side effects, and the patient’s preferences and overall health.