No one knows what causes brain tumours. As per research, only a few known risk factors have been attributed to a brain tumour. Children who have received radiation are more prone to developing brain tumour as adults. In fact, it is also seen that people who suffer from neurofibromatosis have shown signs of a brain tumour in the long run. And finally, age plays a significant role – individuals who are over age 65 years are more prone to brain tumour than the younger population.

Keep in mind that not all brain tumors are cancerous in nature. Some of them are benign tumors that hardly spread to the surrounding tissues but, if left unchecked and untreated they can prove to be life threatening as well. Let us find out what a tumor is, what its symptoms are, and how it can be cured.

What is a Tumor?

A mass of tissue formed due to the accumulation of abnormally growing brain cells leads to tumor. As we age and grow old, the cells in our brain age as well. With the passage of time, old cells are replaced by new cells. But, in case of tumor and cancers, this cycle gets disrupted. Tumor cells start growing (sometimes rapidly, sometimes at a slow pace) even though the body hardly needs them. And unlike the regular cell, these cancerous cells don’t die. They keep on adding to the mass.

These tumors generally emerge from the numerous cells that make up our brain and the central nervous system. The tumor is named after the cell where they are first formed. The most common types are:

  • Gliomas
  • Astrocytic

Another variety is the meningeal tumors. They occur in the meninges – the slim layer between the brain and the spinal cord.

What Are the Symptoms of a Brain Tumor in Adults?

The symptoms of brain tumor vary depending on the type of tumor that has affected your brain. Our brain controls different functions of the body. Depending on the area of the brain where the tumor has appeared, a particular function of the body will be affected. Hence, the symptoms differ.

You will be amazed to know that some brain tumors have no symptoms at all, especially in the initial stages. Only when the tumor has enlarged, the symptoms become apparent. There is a rapid decline in the health and we start noticing a significant weight loss along with other attributes.

The most common symptom is HEADACHE. You might experience frequent headaches and the pain does not subside even after taking medication recommended for headaches.

Other symptoms include:

  • Seizures
  • Speech or hearing impairment
  • Vision problems
  • Balancing problems
  • Walking problems
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms or legs
  • Memory loss
  • Personality changes
  • Concentration issues
  • Weakness in one side or part of the body

Note: If you are experiencing headaches, it does not mean or imply that you are suffering from brain tumor. The same is applicable in case of other symptoms as well. We recommend that you consult a doctor and undergo tests, if you are experiencing one or more of the symptoms mentioned.

How are brain tumours diagnosed?

Your doctor after taking your personal and family history and knowing about your symptoms performs a physical and neurological examination and if the doctor suspects a brain tumour, he/she may request a CT scan or MRI or angiogram or MRA and to confirm the nature of the tumour may also recommend a biopsy.

How Are Brain Tumors Treated?

After diagnosing the brain tumor, its location is identified in the brain. In some cases, the tumor is located at such a position that brain surgery is not recommended. In such a situation chemotherapy and radiation therapy are recommended to kill the tumor cells.

In general scenarios, where the tumor can be easily removed through surgery, surgery is recommended.

Often, it happens that the tumors are located too deep and surgery gets difficult. Doctors might recommend Gamma Knife therapy (highly focused radiation therapy) to treat such tumors.

Is there any side effect?

Treatment for brain tumours may damage healthy tissues as well. Hence, it becomes vital to know whether there will be any side effects or long-term effects after the surgery. Therefore, it is better to have a detailed discussion with your doctor before you proceed with any of the treatments. Your doctor might recommend rehabilitation so as to ensure:

  • Strength and balance
  • Improvement in speech, swallowing habits
  • Proper control of daily activities like bathing, dressing and other activities.

Dr Vikram Sharma

Consultant Neurologist