The brain is the center of thought, memory, emotion, speech, sensation and motor function. The spinal cord and special nerves in the head called cranial nerves carry and receive messages between the brain and the rest of the body.
Most brain and spinal cord tumors have no known risk factors and occur for no apparent reason. There are no known proven ways to prevent these tumors.
The Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States estimates that more than 40,000 Americans will be diagnosed with a primary brain tumor this year.
This year, an estimated 170,000 Americans will be diagnosed with a brain or spinal cord tumor that has spread from another part of the body.
No blood test or other screening exam can detect brain tumors, but there are often some outward signs. While tumors in different parts of the central nervous system disrupt different functions, some symptoms include:
If you suffer from any of the initial signs of a brain tumor, your doctor will likely conduct some or all of the following tests:
If doctors determine that you have a tumor, the treatment options and prognosis are based on the following factors:
Radiation therapy, sometimes called radiotherapy, is the careful use of radiation to safely and effectively treat many different kinds of tumors.
Doctors called radiation oncologists use radiation therapy to try to kill tumors, to control tumor growth or to relieve symptoms.
Radiation therapy works within tumor cells by damaging their ability to multiply. When these cells die, the body naturally eliminates them.
Healthy cells near the tumor may be affected by radiation, but they are able to repair themselves in a way tumor cells cannot.
People with brain tumors should discuss treatment options with several cancer specialists, including a radiation oncologist. A radiation oncologist is a doctor who will help you understand the types of radiation therapy available to treat your tumor. Conventional radiation therapy treatment options for brain tumors include:
External beam radiation therapy involves a series of daily outpatient treatments over several weeks to accurately deliver radiation to the brain. Radiation is often given after surgery, and sometimes it is used instead of surgery.
Internal radiation therapy, or brachytherapy, works by placing radioactive sources in or just next to a tumor.
Doctors are constantly exploring new and better ways to treat primary brain tumors.
The effects of brain radiation can vary depending on your tumor and the technique used to treat it.
Some side effects can be treated with steroids or other medications. Talk to your doctor about any problems you experience.