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Brain Cancer - Causes, Diagnosis, Symptoms, Treatment and Prognosis

Aug 3, 2008
Malignant brain tumors occur in about 4.5 people per 100,000 population, they may occur at any age but brain cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death in patients younger than age 35. In adults, incidence is generally highest between ages 40 to 60.

There are two main types of brain cancer. Primary brain tumors start in the brain. Metastatic brain tumours start somewhere else in the body and moves to the brain. The most common tumor types in adults are gliomas and meningiomas. In children, incidence is generally highest before age 1 and again between ages 2 and 12. The most common types of brain tumour in children are astrocytomas, medulloblastomas, ependymomas and brain stem gliomas.


What causes brain cancer is not exactly known but there has recently been a great deal of speculation on the role of cell phone radiation in the development of brain cancer. In fact, while studies generally have shown no link between cell phones and brain cancer, there is some conflicting scientific evidence that may be worth additional study, according to the FDA.

More accepted risk factors for brain cancer include; exposure to vinyl chloride and individuals with risk factors such as having a job in an oil refinery, as a chemist, embalmer, or rubber industry worker show higher rates of brain cancer. Other risk factors such as smoking, radiation exposure, and viral infection (HIV) have been suggested but not proven to cause brain cancer. Patients with a history of melanoma, lung, breast, colon, or kidney cancer are at risk for secondary brain cancer.


Onset of symptoms is usually insidious and brain tumors are often misdiagnosed. Brain Cancers cause central nervous system changes by invading and destroying tissues and by secondary effects such as pressure on the brain. Symptoms vary but in general, brain cancer symptoms include: Abnormal pulse and breathing rates, deep, dull headaches that recur often and persist without relief for long periods of time, difficulty walking or speaking, dizziness, eyesight problems including double vision, seizures, vomiting and at the late stages of the disorder dramatic changes in blood pressure may occur. Although headaches are often a symptom of brain cancer, it is important to remember that most headaches are due to less serious conditions such as migraine or tension, not cancer.


In most cases a definitive diagnosis is made by a tissue biopsy. Other diagnostic tools include; patient history, a neurologic assessment, skull x-rays, a brain scan, CT scan, MRI, a lumbar puncture and cerebral angiography. Meningiomas, arising from the covering around the brain or spinal cord, account for about 20% of brain cancers and are generally more benign.


How to treat brain tumors depends on the age of the patient, the stage of the disease, the type and location of the tumor, and whether the cancer is a primary tumor or brain metastases. Brain cancer and brain tumors are somewhat unique because of the blood brain barrier, which severely restricts the types of substances in the bloodstream that are allowed by the body into the brain and makes drug treatment extremely difficult. Because of this more and more research is being undertaken in delivering medication by means of nanoparticles, amongst the properties of nanoparticles that make them ideal candidates for recognizing and treating brain cancer, their ability to deliver a wide variety of payloads across the blood-brain barrier is perhaps the most important.

Brain cancer's location and ability to spread quickly makes treatment with surgery or radiation like fighting an enemy hiding out among minefields and caves, and explains why the term brain cancer is all too often associated with the word inoperable.

Brain cancer survival statistics for the deadliest of tumors such as gliomas have not improved significantly over the past two decades and the clinical armamentarium is, to a large extent, still dependent on surgery and radiation therapy, treatments known to leave survivors with devastating cognitive deficits. Gamma knife surgery is a radiosurgery technique used to treat people with brain cancer and other neurological disorders

The most deadly form of brain cancer may be treatable with a vaccine that uses proteins. Unlike measles or mumps vaccines, which are meant to prevent disease, the brain cancer vaccine turns on the patient's own immune system so it will help kill the tumor. When the vaccine is injected, it stimulates the immune system to kill off brain cancer cells and prevent the regrowth of tumors that have already been treated.


The chances of surviving for a person with a brain tumor: Prognosis greatly depends on all of the following: type of tumor extent of the disease size and location of the tumor presence or absence of metastasis the tumor's response to therapy, age, overall health, and medical history, tolerance of specific medications, procedures, or therapies. Metastatic brain cancer indicates advanced disease and has a poor prognosis. Unfortunately, the most common form of primary brain cancer, glioblastoma, is also the most aggressive and lethal but teratomas and other germ cell tumors although they have the capacity to grow very large may have a more favorable prognosis.
About the Author
Dick Aronson has been involved in the healthcare industry for 35 years. He has written numerous articles on the subject and runs a number of informative websites, viz: Go to Cancer Information-online , Go to Brain Cancer Information and Go to Health Innovations
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