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Brain Tumor Blog

Some Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs) About Brain Tumor?

1- What is a brain tumor?
Any new growth (neoplasm) inside the head is called brain tumor. It may arise from the brain itself, from its cavities(ventricles), from its coverings (meninges)from blood vessels, or from the skull bone.

2- What are the different types of brain tumor?
Brain Tumors are classified according to the cell of their origin.About half of them are malignant(cancerous)and the remaining are benign (non-cancerous).

3- Are brain tumors treatable?
Yes, mostly they are treatable using one or more modalities available with the doctors. Often more than one modality is needed to effectively treat them.The location of the tumor, its expected type (based on investigations)and size, and the age and condition of the patient, determine the risk versus benefits of treatment.

4- Are brain tumors curable?
The benign tumors are mostly curable i.e. will not recur if treated adequately.Most of the malignant ones can be controlled for variable lengths of time depending upon their nature.

5- How does a brain tumor present/what are the symptoms?
The presentation of a brain tumar is dependent on where it is located far more than its nature. Following are the usual symptoms.
  1. 1- Headache:Usually worse in the morning, often associated with vomiting without nausea. Sometimes it can be sudden. The intensity varies, usually becoming worse as time passes.

  2. 2- Fits/Seizure:Uncontrolled and unprovoked shaking of a part or of the body with or without loss of consciousness.It is even more significant if it occurs for the first time in adult life; or the fits continue despite adequate medical treatment or they change in nature.

  3. 3- Weakness: In one arm or leg, on one site of the body or on one the side of the face.Specially important are the ones that gradually worsen over time.

  4. 4- Loss / diminution of vision in one or both ears

  5. 5- Loss / diminution of hearing in one or both ears

  6. 6- Difficulty in swallowing

6- Are brain tumors genetic?
Mostly not. Some rare types are seen in families.Genetic basis is being explored.

7- What are the treatment options?
Surgery is the mainstay of treatment of brain tumors as most of them present with features of raised intracranial pressure (headache, vomiting),hydrocephalus,seizures or weakness.Other modalities like radiotherapy or chemotherapy work as adjuncts and act best after the bulk of the tumor has been surgically removed.Drug therapy for controlling seizures and brain swelling has to be given to mostpatients for variable length of time.

8- Is surgery for brain tumor useful and safe?
Yes, surgery for brain tumors is useful and safe.For benign tumors, no further treatment is required after surgery.For malignant tumors, surgery combined with radiotherapy provides the best results.Safety of surgery is dependent on the tumor location and the condition of the patientat the time of surgery.Elective brain surgeryis safer than driving on Delhi-NCR roads.

9- How do you make brain tumor surgery safe?
  • 1. Use of different specialized sequences of MRI to diagnose and define tumor accurately like MR Spectroscopy,Tractography.
  • 2. Use of high-end operating microscope.
  • 3. Use of Neuro navigation technique- computer assisted localization of lesion.
  • 4. Use of high speed drills, CUSA,high-end bipolar cautery and graduated suction.
  • 5. Minimal access surgery for brain using endoscope.
  • 6. Modern anesthesia techniques (awake anesthesia, EEG based monitoring etc.)
  • 7. Neurophysiological monitoring during surgery.

10- After surgery will i be able to work & live normally?
Yes, but you will need a period of rest after surgery.Body takes time to heal from injuries. The return to normalcy, as existed before the disease struck you, is dependent on the nature and location of the tumor and your condition, before surgery was done. Normally, the better you were at the time of surgery, the faster the recovery.

11- When should surgery be done/
As soon as possible, after the detection of the tumor to maximize the chances of recovery.

12- What is Radiotherapy?
Radiotherapy is the use of high doses of radiation to destroy tumor cells, to shrink the tumor and possibly halt/slow its progression. Tumor cells in brain spread far from the edges of the tumor as seen in MRI.Surgery can remove the visible tumor.Brain has no extra or useless tissue and it makes no sense removing tissue that is still functional.Various forms and modalities of radiotherapy are used to destroy cancer cells that are in the bed and periphery of tumor.

13- What is Gamma Knife/Cyber Knife?
It is a system that uses multiple radiation sources(cobalt) to stereo tactically deliver a highly concentracted dose of radiationto a target deep inside the brain.It allows minimal or no exposure to the surrounding normal brain, thus reducing the harmful side effects of radiation.The desired destruction of abnormal tissues is obtained with much greater efficiency than is ever possible with normal radiotherapy.This can only be used for certain small brain lesions(<3cm in size).

14- Is there a drug treatment for brain tumors?
Brain is protected from the rest of the body by a blood brain barrier which severely restricts the entry of most chemical/ biological agents from the blood to brain. This makes it very difficult for cancer drugs to be delivered in effective and safe doses to the brain.Till date no effective drug treatment has been developed for curing brain tumors.

15- How effective and safe is drug treatment for brain tumors?
Used as an adjunctive therapy along with surgery and radiotherapy, some agents notably Temozolamide, do help in increasing the diseases free survival in many malignant brain tumors.

16- Will I have to take drugs for epilepsy all my life?
Epileptic seizures arise from partly damaged parts of brain. Tumors and their treatment, lead to damage to surrounding brain tissue.The chances of this damaged brain leading to seizures are highest for the first 2 to 3 years.Therefore drug therapy to control/prevent seizures is usually advised for the first 2 to 3 years, but it may need to be taken for the rest of life under certain specific conditions.

17- Are there any proven alternative therapies for Brain Tumors?
Despite claims by many practitioners of alternative systems (i.e. other than Allopathy) there are no proven cases where any brain tumor has been successfully treated by those systems.

18- What did I do wrong that I got this tumor in my head?
Modern science still does not know for sure as to what causes most of the brain tumors and thus, it is not possible at this time to say if there is anything you might have done differently to prevent a brain tumor.Certainly, the acts of thinking or worrying or "using the brain excessively" do not cause brain tumors.

19- How do the tumors of brain differ from cancer elsewhere in body?
Most of the brain tumors originate and remain confined within the head , unlike tumors elsewhere in the body.When it is said that a given brain tumor is malignant it means that it invades locally, i.e. inside the brain and that it has h high growth potential and will thus recur despite near total gross removal of tumor using all the different modalities.

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