Brain tumors are a rare condition that results when cells grow abnormally and form a mass. Brain tumors may originate in the brain or spread from cancer in another part of the body. There are many different types of brain tumors. Brain tumors can directly destroy or indirectly damage brain cells. The affects of a brain tumor may be temporary or permanent. Brain tumors may be treated with surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, biological therapies, or a combination of treatments.
Brain tumors result when the cells in the brain grow abnormally and form a mass. Primary brain tumors originate in the brain. They may develop in brain cells, cells insulating nerves, glands, or the meninges, the membranes that cover the brain. The cause of primary brain tumors is unknown. Primary brain tumors may be benign or malignant.
Benign brain tumors are not cancerous, but they may be life threatening if they are located in a vital area of the brain or produce a large amount of swelling. Primary brain tumors are usually slow growing and do not spread. Malignant brain tumors are life threatening. Malignant brain tumors may be referred to as brain cancer. Malignant brain tumors can be fast growing and can spread to other parts of the body.
Metastatic brain tumors result from cancer that spreads from another part of the body to the brain. Multiple tumors are common. Lung, breast, kidney, colon, and melanoma skin cancer most frequently spread to the brain.
There are many different types of brain tumors. Brain tumors may be confined to a small area in the brain or spread throughout the brain. Brain tumors can directly destroy or indirectly damage brain cells. Brain tumors can compress brain cells and tissue. They can contribute to brain swelling and increased pressure in the brain. The effects of a brain tumor may be temporary or permanent. Brain tumors can result in functional impairments, disability, or death.
Brachytherapy is used to destroy cancer cells from an internal source of radiation. Brachytherapy uses a radioactive source, referred to as a “seed.” Interstitial brachytherapy involves implanting radioactive seeds into or near a cancer tumor. The seeds may be left in place permanently or temporarily. Radiation from internally placed radioactive seeds disrupts the growth of cancer cells. Brachytherapy spares as many healthy cells as possible because it directs radiation to only a specific area.
Chemotherapy is another method for treating brain tumors. Chemotherapy uses special medications to kill tumor cells. Chemotherapy is a primary treatment for children with brain tumors to delay radiation treatments. In adults, chemotherapy may be used as an adjunct to other therapies. It is also used to help treat recurrent brain tumors.
Chemotherapy may be delivered in several different ways. Most chemotherapy is given by injection. Implanted pumps or catheters may be used to deliver a continuous dose. After a brain tumor is removed, polymer wafer implants may be placed in the cavity to deliver chemotherapy. The wafers eventually dissolve.
Biological therapies are used to change the biological behavior of a cell or the biological environment that a cell is in to make it difficult for tumor cells to grow. There are a variety of biological therapies that act in different ways. Some of the ways that biological therapies work are to enhance the immune system, block signals that promote tumor growth, or block the changes that take place in healthy cells that make them cancerous. Gene therapy is used to help repair or replace abnormal genes that cause cancer tumors.
The effects of a brain tumor may be temporary or permanent. Brain tumors can result in functional impairments or disability. Some people participate in rehabilitation therapies after experiencing a brain tumor to regain skills and improve their functional independence. Rehabilitation should be provided by a facility with the special skills and expertise to treat people with brain injuries.
The experience of a brain tumor, brain injury, cancer, and treatments may be a very emotional experience for you and your loved ones. It is important to embrace positive sources of support. Some people find comfort in their families, friends, co-workers, counselors, and faith. Cancer support groups are a helpful resource where you can receive support, information, and understanding from people with similar experiences. Ask your doctor for support groups near you.
Am I at Risk
Brain tumors are a rare condition. The cause of primary brain tumors is unknown. Certain inherited conditions, including neurofibromatosis, Von Hippel-Lindau Syndrome, Li-Fraumeni Syndrome, and Turcot’s Syndrome, are associated with an increased risk of brain tumors. Head injuries, hormone replacement therapy, radiation exposure, and exposure to certain chemicals may increase the risk of brain tumors.
Some people with brain tumors develop an increase in intracranial pressure and need a shunt to help drain cerebral spinal fluid to relieve the pressure and symptoms. Increased intracranial pressure can result from brain swelling. A shunt is a thin tube that drains excess fluids from the brain into the body.
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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.
The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on February 16, 2022. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.