Adult Brain Tumors
- Adult brain tumor facts*
- What are adult brain tumors?
- What are metastatic brain tumors?
- What are the symptoms of an adult brain tumor?
- What tests are used to find and diagnose adult brain tumors?
- What is the grade of a tumor?
- What are the types of adult brain tumors?
- How are adult brain tumors treated?
- Three types of standard treatment are used.
- Other types of treatment that are being tested in clinical trials
- Treatment options by type of adult brain tumor
- Where can a patient get more information about adult brain tumors?
- Find a local Oncologist in your town
Adult brain tumor facts*
*Adult brain tumor facts medical author: Charles P. Davis, MD, PhD
- The brain is a soft mass of tissue that has three major parts, the
cerebrum, cerebellum and the brain stem, all of which are effectively surrounded
and protected by the bones of the skull; the brain is the tissue that controls
people's voluntary and involuntary actions.
- Cancer is the unregulated growth of abnormal cells in the body (cancer
cells are also termed malignant cells).
- Malignant brain tumors contain cancer cells; benign brain tumors do not
contain cancer cells but do contain abnormally replicating cells that do not
metastasize (spread to other organs) but may still cause problems, often because
of their size and are regulated to grow in a specific area.
- Primary brain tumors are composed of abnormal types of brain cells with
unregulated growth; the most common type is termed gliomas that arise from brain
glial cells, but there are many other types (for example, astrocytomas,
ependymomas, medulloblastomas and others).
- Secondary brain tumors are tumors that have spread to the brain tissue, but
are composed of cancer cells from other organs (for example, breast, lung).
- The exact cause of brain tumors is unknown; however, people at higher risk
for them are children and the elderly, white males, people with family members
that have brain tumors, radiation exposure, and exposures to many different
- Symptoms of brain tumors, many of which are non-specific and occur in other
diseases, may include headaches, nausea,
vomiting, speech, hearing or vision
changes, memory problems, personality changes and paresthesias (an abnormal
sensation of the skin such as numbness, tingling, prickling, burning, or
creeping on the skin that has no objective cause).
- Brain tumors are diagnosed preliminarily by many methods including detailed
physical exam, CT and/or MRI exams, angiograms, and X-rays; definitive diagnosis
is by removing tissue from the tumor (tumor biopsy) and examining the cells
- Treatment choices for a brain tumor depends on joint decisions made by the patient and the patient's physician team (team members may include oncologists, surgeons,
therapists and others the patient may choose, including other doctors who may
give a second opinion); treatment methods are based on the individual's disease
and may consist of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, combinations of
these methods or no treatment.
- Side effects of treatments are common and numerous but vary from patient to
patient depending on the disease, method(s) used and the effectiveness of
medications and other methods to reduce them; some of the most common side
effects are weakness, nausea, edema, skin changes and hair loss but may include
more serious problems such as infections,
seizures, disabilities such as speech
problems, mental changes and occasionally, death.
- Rehabilitation is frequently included in the treatment plan; specialists
like physical, occupational and speech therapists can help the patient improve.
- Follow-up appointments are part of the treatment plan for brain tumors to catch any
recurrent disease and to help with rehabilitation treatments.
- Support groups are available to patients with brain tumors and to patients who have and are undergoing treatments; for example, the American Cancer Society, American Brain Tumor Society.
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