A brain tumour is a collection, or mass of abnormal cells in the brain. Being the 10th leading cause of morbidity in India, the incidences of the deadly disease is on an exponential rise and different kinds of tumours manifest at different age groups. These tumours can be cancerous (malignant) or non-cancerous. When a benign or malignant tumour grows, they cause immense pressure in the skull, making it a life-threatening complication due to gradual brain damage.
Timely surgery is very important, as this can not only cure the symptoms of tumors but also prevent other fatal complications. At times patients and their loved ones fear the complications of surgery and opt for alternative methods of treatment which may end up in worsening the condition.
As per the Globocan 2018 report, issued by the International Association of Cancer Registries (IARC) associated with the World Health Organization (WHO), in India over 28,000 cases new brain tumour cases were reported annually. Around 24,000 patients lost their lives battling this neurological ailment.
Recurrent headaches can be the early signs of brain tumour.
Symptoms and signs of brain tumour depend on the size and location of the tumour. Some tumours can directly affect by invading the brain tissue while some cause pressure on the surrounding brain. Major symptoms of brain tumour include:
– Headaches (worsens in the morning).
– Blurred vision or double vision
– A change in the mental functioning
– Weakness of a limb or part of the face
– Difficulty in physical movements
Types of Brain Tumours
Brain tumours are categorised as primary and secondary. A primary brain tumour is the one which originates in the brain. Many of them are benign. A secondary brain tumour is known as metastatic brain tumour. It occurs when the cancer cells spread to brain from the another organs such as lungs and breast.
Primary Brain tumours: Primary brain tumours can be benign or cancerous. In adults, the most common types of brain tumours are gilomas (which develops from glial cells) and meningiomas (that develops on the membranes of brain and spinal cord). These tumours can originate in your brain and can develop from:
• Brain cells
• Nerve cells such as schwanommas
• The membranes that surrounds the brain such as meningiomas
• Glands like pituitary gland
Secondary Brain Tumours: Secondary brain tumours consist majority of the brain cancers. They start from the one part of the body and then spreads of metastasize to the brain. The following can metastasize to the brain.
• Lung cancer
• Breast cancer
• Kidney cancer’
• Skin cancer
These tumours are always malignant as benign tumours do not spread from one to another part of the body.
• Family history- As per the recent study, only 5 to 10 percent of cancers are genetically inherited, or hereditary. It’s a rare that brain tumour can be inherited but if you have family history of the disease then you should get health screenings and consult the doctor at regular intervals of time.
• Age- Though the frequency of this disease is likely to affect people above the age of 55 years, but many such cases have also been seen in children in the age bracket of 3 years to 15 years of age, irrespective of the gender.
• Exposure to radiations and chemicals- People who have been exposed to ionizing radiations and chemicals have an elevated risk of developing brain tumour.
Diagnosis of brain tumour begins with a physical exam and a look at the patient’s medical history. After the physical tests, the doctor will recommend for the further tests which include:
CT scan of the head- These scans helps the doctors get a more detailed scan of the body than X-rays. Using a special dye it helps them to view some structures like blood vessels more clearly.
MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)- An MRI is different than CT scan as it does involve any radiations and provides much more detailed pictures of the brain.
Functional MRI (f-MRI) – Latest generation MRI scans have the potential to accurately position the site of tumor in the brain. Further with the assistance of Functional MRI(f-MRI) even the functional areas of the brain can be traced with accuracy without affecting the adjoining healthy cells.
At least 45% of the brain tumors are non-cancerous, and therefore timely treatment can lead to the patients having a normal survival and normal function.
Advanced treatment modules
While a common myth persists in the minds that any surgical procedure of the brain mostly leaves people with permanent paralysis or in a vegetative state, there is a dire need to raise awareness among the common masses about the latest minimally invasive intervention procedures and hi-tech equipment, which has zero risk and are highly safe procedures.
A dedicated treatment centre is required to treat the condition, making use of the technical advancements like microsurgical intervention, endoscopic procedures, clubbed with navigation techniques for precise targeting of the tumor location.
With recent advancements made in the field of neurosurgery, minimally invasive procedures for the treatment of Brain tumors have been emerging as one of the best methods of treatment. Endoscopic brain tumor surgical procedure allows neurosurgeons to easily find and treat the conditions that are deep within the brain or are accessible through the nose.
Providing a crystal-clear visualization, an endoscope, the thin tube-like instrument with camera attached to the end helps in removing the tumor without damaging the healthy parts of the brain.
An exciting new technology, robotic Cyberknife Radiosurgery has nearly 100% success rate and no plan or risk involved. This is especially suited for small non-cancerous tumors.
At our Brain Tumor Centre, we work with above modalities in close cooperation with Medical and Radiation Oncology colleagues. Such a comprehensive, team and technology-based approach is the key to our success.
The writer is Director, Neurosurgery, Agrim institute of Neurosciences, Artemis Hospital