Also Listed As
More than 17,000 people in the United States each year are diagnosed with a brain tumor. Some tumors are benign (noncancerous), and they can usually be removed and are not likely to recur. Others are malignant (cancerous); they interfere with vital functions and are life-threatening. Malignant brain tumors usually grow rapidly, crowding and invading tissue.
Primary brain tumors are cancers that arise in the brain and
affect the central nervous system (CNS). Secondary brain tumors,
which are 10 times more common, are cancers that originated elsewhere
in the body and have metastasized (spread) to the brain.
A brain tumor can be accompanied by the following signs and symptoms.
Headaches that often are worse in the morning
People with the following conditions or characteristics may be at risk for developing a brain tumor.
If you are experiencing symptoms associated with a brain tumor, you should see your health care provider immediately. Your provider will ask about your personal and family medical history, and will perform a complete physical and neurologic exam. This includes checks for alertness, muscle strength, coordination, reflexes, and response to pain, and an eye exam to look for swelling caused by a tumor pressing on the nerve that connects the eye and the brain. The provider may send you for a computed tomography (CT) scan and/or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Additional tests may include skull X ray, brain scan, angiogram or arteriogram, and a myelogram (X ray of the spine, using dye). If cancer is present, others who may become involved in your care include a neurosurgeon, medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, nurse, dietitian, social worker, physical therapist, occupational therapist, and speech therapist.
Treatment for a brain tumor depends on the type, location, and
size of the tumor, as well as the person's age and general health.
Treatment generally involves surgery, radiation therapy, and/or
Your provider may prescribe the following therapies.
Surgery is the most common treatment. To remove a brain tumor, a neurosurgeon performs a craniotomy, which involves making an opening in the skull. If the tumor cannot be at least partially removed, the surgeon may do only a biopsy, in which a small piece of the tumor is removed so that a pathologist can examine it under a microscope to determine the type of cancer cells. This necessary information helps determine other forms of treatment.
Another procedure sometimes used is insertion of a shunt to
drain cerebrospinal fluid. A shunt is a long, thin tube placed
in the brain and then threaded under the skin to another part
of the body, usually the abdomen. It works like a drainpipe,
allowing excess fluid to be carried away from the brain and absorbed
in the abdomen.
A comprehensive treatment plan for brain cancer may include a range of complementary and alternative therapies. Nutrients and herbs may protect against side effects from conventional therapies as well as enhance chemotherapy and support anticancer activities. Mind-body therapies such as meditation, relaxation techniques, yoga, and qi gong may reduce the effects of stress and enhance your quality of life and your response to treatment. Ask your team of health care providers about the best ways to incorporate these therapies into your overall treatment plan.
Potentially beneficial nutrient supplements include the following.
Some acupuncturists prefer to work with a patient only after
the completion of conventional medical cancer therapy. Others
will provide acupuncture and/or herbal therapy during active
chemotherapy or radiation. Acupuncturists treat cancer patients
based on an individualized assessment of the excesses and deficiencies
of qi located in various meridians. In many cases of cancer-related
symptoms, a qi deficiency is usually detected in the spleen or
Regular follow-up is very important after treatment, to make sure the tumor has not returned. Checkups usually include physical and neurologic exams and occasional CT scans or MRIs.
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