Brain Tumors: What You Need to Know

a woman with a toothache

Brain tumors are lumps or masses that can form in the brain. They are often cancerous, but can also be benign (non-cancerous). Because they affect the brain, which is responsible for so many vital functions, brain tumors can be deadly. This is why it is essential to be aware of the signs and symptoms of brain tumors and the methods used to diagnose and treat them. Here are some key points about brain tumors:

Possible Signs of a Brain Tumor

There is no one specific cause for brain tumors. However, doctors have identified some factors that may increase your risk of developing a brain tumor. This includes exposure to ionizing radiation. You might be exposed to this if you went to a place that had a nuclear accident or you were exposed to medical radiation therapy. Other risk factors include having a family history of brain tumors or carrying specific genes that make you more susceptible to developing tumors. If you have any of these risk factors, it’s important to be aware of the possible signs and symptoms of a brain tumor so you can seek medical help if necessary.

Brain tumors can cause a wide variety of symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms include headaches, vomiting, blurred vision, seizures, and weakness. These symptoms can also be accompanied by other changes in mental functioning, such as memory loss, confusion, or even difficulty writing or reading. However, not all these symptoms will occur in every person with a brain tumor. While many of these symptoms can be caused by other conditions, it is important to rule out a brain tumor as a potential cause. If you experience these, you must see your doctor for a diagnosis.

Getting a Diagnosis

When raising this health concern, your doctor will likely ask questions about your symptoms and medical history. Try to be as descriptive and accurate as possible when discussing your symptoms. When discussing your medical history, you should also look into your family’s medical history because some genetic conditions can make you more susceptible to developing a brain tumor. Aside from this discussion, your doctor will likely conduct a neurological exam. These tests evaluate your hearing, vision, balance, and reflexes. This is an essential step because brain tumors can cause changes in these functions.

Moreover, your doctor may also order imaging tests, such as an MRI, to better look at your brain. This test produces a detailed image of your brain that can help your doctor look for any changes and determine the size and location of the tumor, if there is one. Even if you’re worried about tight spaces or claustrophobia, you can still get the test without discomfort. You can do this by getting a reliable open MRI test that will give you a clear image without any side effects. Doing so can help your doctor make a more accurate diagnosis and help you address your health concerns.

You may also need to do a biopsy if a tumor is suspected. The type of biopsy will be determined based on the tumor’s location. Biopsies often take 2 to 3 hours and involve getting a small sample of tissue from an area suspected to be affected by the tumor, which will then be examined using a microscope. This is the only way to definitively diagnose a brain tumor, and whether it’s benign or cancerous.

Doctor uses microscope

Common Treatment Plans

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating brain tumors, so your treatment plan will be customized to your individual situation. Depending on your tumor’s location, type, severity, and other factors, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following options:

  • Surgery: This aims to remove as much of the tumor as possible without significantly affecting your brain’s healthy tissue. This often takes 4 to 6 hours, and, in some cases, it may not be possible to remove the entire tumor.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy kills cancer cells using drugs. They are often used for tumors that grow at a fast pace. Depending on what specific drugs are prescribed for your case, the entirety of your chemotherapy treatment may last between 3 to 6 months with varying intervals per session.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to kill cancer cells. This treatment can be done alongside another procedure and often takes 30 to 45 minutes per session.

These are the most common treatment options for brain tumors. Still, with continuous technological advancements and medical research, new treatments are being developed all the time. Hence, your doctor will work with you to create the most suitable treatment plan for your condition.

No one knows your body better than you do, and if you have any concerns or notice something different about your health — no matter how small it may seem — it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Putting off a visit to the doctor could result in more severe health problems down the road that could have been avoided with early detection. Don’t wait until you feel sick enough to see a doctor; prevention is always key!

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