A brain tumor is a disease in which cells grow uncontrollably in the brain. Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. If cells divide uncontrollably they form a mass of tissue. The mass is called a growth or tumor. The term cancer usually refers to
malignant tumors. These can invade nearby tissue and can spread to other parts of the body. A
does not spread, but it can press structures near it causing symptoms.
There are two main types of brain tumors:
Primary brain cancer begins in the brain. It can be either benign or malignant. A small benign tumor in a bad location can cause significant problems.
Secondary or metastatic brain cancer has spread to the brain from another site in the body. All metastatic tumors are malignant.
Note: These symptoms may also be caused by other, less serious conditions. If you are experiencing these symptoms, see your doctor.
The doctor will ask about symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be performed. You will have a neurologic exam. It will test muscle strength, coordination, reflexes, response to stimuli, and alertness. The doctor will also look into your eyes to check for signs of brain swelling.
—a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of structures inside the body.
—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the body.
—a test that detects levels of metabolic activity by tracking a radioactive sugar molecule. PET scans are not approved to look at primary brain tumors. They can be helpful if the doctor is trying to find out if symptoms are related to a tumor or injury from treatment.
—a test that uses x-rays to make pictures of blood vessels in the brain. The vessels are highlighted by contrast material that is injected before the test.
—removal of a sample of brain tissue to test for cancer cells. It may involve a small needle being inserted into the brain or it may involve surgery.
Stereotaxis—use of a computer-assisted
scan to locate the tumor and take a
. The doctor drills a small hole in the skull, inserts a needle, and withdraws the sample tissue.
Once cancer is found, further tests may be performed if there is concern that the cancer has spread. Treatment depends on the type, size, and location of the cancer, and your overall health. Treatments may leave you with physical or mental limitations.
Before beginning treatment, you may take medications, including:
These medications may only be helpful if you have a history of seizure disorder.
Surgical procedures include:
Craniotomy—opening the skull to remove the tumor or as much of the tumor as possible
Shunt—implanting a long thin tube in the brain to divert built-up fluid to another part of the body
The use of
to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. This is a common treatment for brain tumors. Surgical removal can often be difficult to achieve safely. Radiation may be:
External Radiation Therapy
Radiation is directed at the tumor from a source outside the body.
If you have a metastatic brain tumor, you will receive whole brain radiation therapy (WBRT). If you have a primary brain tumor, you will receive more focused radiation therapy. WRBT may also be used in people who have cancer in other areas of the body. The treatment is used to prevent brain cancer.
Internal Radiation Therapy
Radioactive materials placed into the body near the cancer cells.
This is used less often.
Higher doses can be delivered to the affected areas of the brain. Nearby normal tissue can be spared. Special equipment, including MRI and CT scans, help to localize the delivery of the radiation.
This is most often used in metastatic brain tumors or in benign brain tumors, such as
is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. It may be given in many forms, including pill, injection, and via a catheter. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body killing mostly cancer cells, but also some healthy cells. It may also be delivered directly into the cerebrospinal fluid, which bathes the brain tissue. This form of chemotherapy administration is called intrathecal.
This is most often used when there is spread of cancer from elsewhere in the body to the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
Rehabilitation therapy includes:
Physical therapy to help with walking, balance, and building strength
Occupational therapy to help with mastering life skills, such as dressing, eating, and using the toilet
Speech therapy to help express thoughts and overcome swallowing difficulties
If you are diagnosed with brain cancer or a brain tumor, follow your doctor's
There are no guidelines for preventing brain cancer.
At present, there is no conclusive evidence that using cell phones or living by electrical wires or power plants increases your risk of developing a brain tumor.
5/28/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
Tremont-Lukats IW, Ratilal BO, Armstrong T, Gilbert MR. Antiepileptic drugs for preventing seizures in people with brain tumors.
The Cochrane Library.
2008; DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004424.pub2.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a