A tumor is formed due to the uncontrolled proliferation of living cells. Generally, the cells in the human body continuously die and are replaced by new cells. Some cells are replaced frequently, like intestinal lining and skin, while some like nerve cells live longer and may not be replaced once they die. Natural cell death is mediated by genetic information and the body’s bio-chemical signals. In the case of a tumor, some cells develop genetic mutations, and stop responding to the ‘cell-death’ signals. They do not die and continue to grow to form a mass, stealing nutrients and oxygen from surrounding tissue. Brain tumor can arise from any of the many types of cells in the brain or its covering. These can be benign (less harmful), or malignant (rapidly growing). These tumours cause harm by following methods:
- A rapidly growing tumor mass can press on normal brain tissue and damage them in the enclosed space of skull.
- Stealing food and oxygen from surrounding normal tissue thereby harming them.
- Increase the brain pressure and reducing its blood supply.
- Secrete harmful substances causing cerebral oedema.
- Some tumours like certain Pituitary tumours can secrete hormones abnormally and cause hormonal imbalance.
Symptoms of Brain Tumour:
- Headache: New onset regular headaches, without any history of having such frequent headaches in past, which becomes worse because of other pressure related activities, such as sneezing, coughing, exercising might be a possible symptom of brain tumour and issues related to such sudden and frequent headaches should be taken up with the doctor without any further delay. If headache is associated with nausea or drowsiness, it is to be taken seriously.
- Seizures: Seizures or convulsions (fits) are amongst the most common symptoms of brain tumour, which might be limited to a particular body part or the whole body. It may manifest as frank convulsive movements of the limbs, twitching of one side of face, or may cause subtle and transient behavioral changes. New onset seizures in young people must be evaluated to rule out brain tumours.
- Numbness in arms/legs: Numbness in parts of the body may be caused by a tumour affecting the sensory tracts.
- Balancing problems: Poor coordination and balancing problems may arise as a prominent symptom for brain tumour affecting the hindbrain.
- Memory problems: Lack of concentration and memory loss may be the only symptoms for the presence of tumour in the frontal or temporal lobes.
- Nausea or vomiting: Nausea or vomiting might be the symptoms of many other possible health issues, but a headache associated with nausea and/or vomiting is a characteristic symptom of raised brain pressure. Such symptoms should be evaluated to rule out a brain tumor and should not be ignored.
- Facial paralysis: weakness of one half of face, like deviation of mouth, drooling of saliva from one corner of mouth, inability to close eyelids etc. may be due to facial paresis caused by a brain tumor in the opercular area or in the CP angle. Such symptoms need to be investigated for a tumor.
- Change in vision: A person suffering from brain tumor might also experience changes in the vision, dizziness, blurry vision, among other sight related issues.
- Change in speech: Sudden inability to speak or understand speech may be due to tumors of the dominant hemisphere of the brain.
- Hearing problems: hearing problems and other hearing related disorders might have the brain tumor of posterior fossa or temporal lobe as a possible reason.
Diagnosing a brain tumour may include one or more of many tests, including CT scan, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), PET scan and biopsy. One should never ignore the symptoms discussed above and should visit a doctor, preferably a Neurosurgeon as early as possible. Brain tumors are easier to treat if diagnosed early. Certain small tumors can be treated with radiation alone. If surgery is required, smaller tumors diagnosed early have greater chance of cure. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult a Neurosurgeon.