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World Brain Tumor Day: Causes And Symptoms

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8th June is observed as World Brain Tumor Day every year. The aim is to spread awareness about the condition and help the patients to deal with the condition in a better and effective way.

Jenny, just like any other 20-year-old, she lived her life to the fullest. Her life revolved around her parents, friends, and college. It was during summers that she had to attend her cousin’s wedding in Bangalore. She spent the whole day traveling and having fun with friends and family. She reached her home the same night and hit the bed as soon as she reached her home as she was very exhausted. But as she slept, she heard a weird sound in her ear and she was not able to speak. She failed to make sentences but since she was sleeping she didn’t think about it. When she woke up the next morning, everything seemed normal as she could speak and write.

She got ready for her college but she felt something was not normal. She didn’t know what it was, but she felt amiss. She attended all her lectures with her hands over her ears. She thought it could be due to dehydration and exhaustion, so she made sure she drank a lot of water. However, little did it help. The same night when she was reading a book, she failed to read. This was a sign that something was wrong. She told her mom and they visited their family doctor. After doing a series of tests including an MRI and consulting with other experts, it was revealed that she had a brain tumor. She even took a second appointment to confirm. Recently, she underwent a surgery to get it removed and is doing fine.

The story of Jenny, like many other cancer survivors, sheds light on the fact that knowing the signs and symptoms of cancer can go a long way in the early diagnosis and treatment of cancer. However, it is not always easy to know these signs and some signs such as fever and headache could not always indicate cancer. But whatever is the case, it is always a good idea to not ignore even a small symptom as it could be a sign of a deadly disease like cancer. And a brain tumor is no new to this. In this article, we shed light on brain tumor and its symptoms.

What Is A Brain Tumor?

A brain tumor is a type of central nervous system (CNS) tumor which constitutes approximately 2% of all malignancies[1]. Although relatively rare, it is associated with morbidity and mortality of young as well as middle-aged individuals. The incidence of these tumors in India ranges from 5- 10 per 1,00,000 population[1]. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) latest classification of CNS tumors, brain cancers are described as high-grade (III and IV) tumors of the CNS.

The World Health Organization has classified/categorized CNS tumors into four grades[2]. These are:

Grade 1: In this, tumors grow slowly and are generally nonmalignant in nature. Moreover, patients with this grade of tumor are likely to survive for a long period of time.

Grade 2: This is when the cancerous cells grow at a slow pace but recur as high-grade tumors. These can be nonmalignant or malignant in nature.

Grade 3: In this, the tumor grows aggressively and tends to recur as a high-grade tumor over time.

Grade 4: This is when the cancerous cells reproduce rapidly and spread quickly. It can be aggressive in nature with a high risk of spreading to nearby areas and other organs.

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What Causes Or Puts You At Risk Of Brain Tumor?

Although the exact cause of a brain tumor is not known, there are several factors which can put you at risk of cancer. These include:

-Your age (risk increases with age)

-Clinical history (if you had a history of brain cancer or any other form of malignant cancer)

-Family history (if anyone in your family has/had cancer)

-Genetic mutations (that occur at birth or during the lifetime)

-Radiations (due to X-rays, radiation therapy or CT-scan)

Not all brain tumors are cancerous in nature. This means that some are completely benign or harmless masses of cancerous cells that mainly target the structural tissue of the brain. Whereas some could be malignant or cancerous in nature, which means that the cancerous cells can spread to the other organs of the body. Brain cancers are broadly classified into two major types namely:

Primary tumors: These are the ones that affect the tissues in the brain. Basically, these type of cancers originate in the brain and grow there.

Secondary tumors: These type of tumors affect a certain part of the body such as the liver, lung, breast, kidney or stomach and spread to the brain. This is the reason, secondary tumors are also known as metastatic tumors. These are more common in India as compared to primary tumors.

What Are The Symptoms Of Brain Tumor?

There are no tell-a-tale signs of a brain tumor which is the reason cancer goes undetected for a long time. However, there are certain signs which might indicate a brain tumor and require you to seek urgent medical help. The common symptoms of a brain tumor are

– Headache (which is frequent, severe during the morning or becomes more severe with time)

– Nausea and vomiting, especially in the morning

– Difficulty in hearing or hearing loss

– Changes in vision (which includes double vision, blurry vision or vision loss)

– Difficulty in speaking or slurred speech

– Weakness in the arms and legs

– Postural imbalance

– Confusion

– Seizures

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, then it is advised to not ignore the symptoms but consult a doctor. This is because ignoring these symptoms or not diagnosing cancer in the early stages can make it difficult to treat and worsen the condition. You can go to a neurologist or a neurosurgeon for proper diagnosis of the condition and know about the treatment options available. Stay informed, stay healthy!

(The article is reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)

Recommended Reads:

Cluster Headache: Triggers, Symptoms And Treatment Options

Head And Neck Cancer: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

References:

1. Dasgupta A, Gupta T, Jalali R. Indian data on central nervous tumors: A summary of published work. South Asian J Cancer. 2016 Jul-Sep;5(3):147-53.

2. Gupta A, Dwivedi T. A Simplified Overview of World Health Organization Classification Update of Central Nervous System Tumors 2016. J Neurosci Rural Pract. 2017 Oct-Dec;8(4):629-641.

3. Signs and Symptoms of Adult Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors. The American Cancer Society. 

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