A brain tumour is a mass of abnormal cells that grow in the brain affecting its normal function. A brain tumour is classified according to various criteria like nature, site of origin etc of a tumour. Brain tumours are now treatable with more and more modern techniques being developed for the removal of the tumour and the management of complications of the treatment.
Brain tumour types:
Brain tumour can be classified according to-
1. The nature of the abnormal cells:
• Benign (non-cancerous)
• Malignant (cancerous)
2. The site of origin:
• Primary (originating from the brain itself)
• Secondary or metastatic (originating from some other body part and spreading to the brain)
3. The tissue of origin:
• Glioblastoma, Astrocytoma, Ependymoma, Oligoastrocytoma, Oligodendroglioma etc are some of the brain tumours that originate from the Glial cells of the brain
• Meningomas are mostly benign tumours that originate from the meninges
• Schwannomas originate from the Schwann cells of the neurons
• Pituitary edenomas originate from the base of the brains
• Primitive neuroectodermal tumours originate from the embryonic cells of the brain
• Germ cells tumours originate from the remnants of the germ cells
• Craniopharyngiomas are benign tumours of the pituitaries
• Secondary brain tumours are due to the spread of cancer of the breast, colon, kidney, lung, and melanoma
Brain tumour causes:
There are no specific causes for a brain tumour. Exposure to radiation, a family history, increased age etc is known to increase the incidence of brain tumours.
Brain tumour symptoms and signs:
Symptoms and signs of a brain tumour depend upon the site, type, and size of the tumour. Benign brain tumour symptoms might differ from that of malignant ones, but the general symptoms that could be indicative of a brain tumour are:
• A severe headache (usually worse in the morning)
• Changes in sensation, vision, smell, hearing etc
• Personality or memory changes
• Nausea or vomiting
• Visual disturbances
• Drowsiness and sleep problems
• Changes in ability to walk
While these symptoms are present in other conditions that affect the brain, one should not rush into a conclusion of the disease, if any or all the symptoms are present in an individual. There are certain symptoms that may be specific to the location of brain tumour and are due to the pressure effects exerted by the benign tumours and due to the loss of healthy brain tissue in case of malignant tumours.
Some of the symptoms indicative of a brain tumour are-
• In cerebellum- loss of balance, difficulty with fine motor skills
• In cerebrum- if the tumour is in the frontal lobe- changes in personality, changes in sensation, memory loss, sluggishness, muscle weakness, paralysis, aggressiveness, mood changes and if in the temporal lobe- partial or complete loss of vision, double vision, personality disorders, memory loss, altered perception of touch or pressure, weakness in the legs, aggressiveness and mood changes. If in the parietal lobe-altered perception of touch or pressure, arm or leg weakness on one side, inability to differentiate between left and right side
• In the brain stem- difficulty in swallowing, numbness in the face, inability to control facial muscles
Types of treatment:
Treatment for brain tumour depends upon a lot of factors and the most important of them are-
1. Size of the tumour (small or big)
2. Type of the tumour (benign or malignant)
3. Grade of the tumour
4. Effect of the tumour (symptoms)
5. General health of the patient
6. Presence of other co-morbid conditions
7. Side effect of the treatments
The treatment options available for brain tumours are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. One or all of these treatment options are chosen depending upon the above-mentioned factors. In cases of lower grade tumours, surgery is the first line of treatment to be followed by chemotherapy or radiation only if necessary. In higher grade tumours, a combination of all these three is necessary.
Risks of brain tumour treatment:
While the brain tumour is a serious health hazard, a treatment for it can itself create serious complications. All types of brain tumours come with its share of risks. In surgery, there is always a possibility of damaging the brain tissue close to the tumour, especially so when the tumour is in a delicate area close to sensitive structures. The after effects could be irreversible brain damage. In radiation therapy, the tissue around the tumour exposed to the radiation can undergo irreversible changes. In chemotherapy, the blood-brain barrier which is a protective mechanism for preventing hazardous chemicals could prevent the entry of the drugs as well.
Brain tumour surgery cost in India
The cost of brain tumour surgery in India is in the range of 8000 -12000 $. The cost depends on the type of surgery, hospital etc. Brain tumour treatment cost in India is one of the lowest among medically advanced countries and hence more and more patients come in for treatment from other countries.
Dos and Don’ts after brain tumour surgery:
Recovery from surgery is a very gradual process and could be a difficult period for the patient, relatives, and the doctors. There are certain things that one should understand and follow after brain tumour treatment.
• Show patience for results to be obvious
• Cooperate fully with the doctors and the nursing staff
• Share your concerns with your medical team
• Follow the diet prescribed and report any problems with swallowing
• Don’t panic if there is only little improvement in the short term
• Don’t forget to take medicines on time
• Don’t ignore signs or symptoms that were not present before and report immediately to the doctor.