A brain tumor is an abnormal growth of tissue. There are more than 120 types of tumor that affect the brain and the spinal cord. Tumors are usually categorized by the type of cell where they begin, or by the area in the brain or spinal cord where they occur.
Brain tumors may be classified as either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous), depending on their behavior. The tumor can either originate in the brain itself (primary tumor), or come from another part of the body and travel to the brain (metastatic or secondary tumor).
Malignant tumors contain cancer cells. Primary brain (malignant) tumors rarely spread to other areas of the body, but may recur after treatment. Sometimes, benign tumors can be life-threatening because of their size and location, and the damage they can do to vital functions of the brain. Symptoms of brain tumors can vary widely depending on the size and location of the tumor as well as other factors. Following are some of the common symptoms of a brain tumor:
Symptoms of a Brain Tumor
- Personality changes
- Balance and coordination problems
- Vision, hearing or speech problems
- Abnormal sensations in legs, hand or fingers
The symptoms of a brain tumor may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.
Diagnosing a Brain Tumor
Diagnosis of a brain or spinal cord tumor depends mostly on the types of cells involved and the tumor’s location. In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for brain and spinal cord tumors may include the following:
- Neurological examination testing reflexes, muscle strength, eye and mouth movement, coordination and alertness
- Computed Tomography (CT)
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
- Arteriogram (Angiogram)
- Spinal Tap (lumbar puncture)
Inova Brain Tumor Program
Treatment of brain cancer or benign brain tumors is complex, often involving a team of doctors. These doctors includes neurosurgeons (specialists in the brain and nervous system), oncologists, radiation oncologists (doctors who practice radiation therapy) and, your general practitioner. Your team will also include a dietitian, a social worker, a physiotherapist and probably other specialists.
Treatment varies according to the type and location of the tumor, a patient's age and other medical issues. The most widely used treatments are surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, individually or as a series of treatments.