Find Effective Treatment for Brain Tumors at Raleigh Neurosurgical Clinic
What Is a Brain Tumor?
A brain tumor is a mass, or growth, of abnormal cells within tissues located in or close to the brain. Brain tumors can be cancerous (malignant) or non-cancerous (benign), and may begin within the brain itself (primary) or in other parts of the body and spread to the brain (secondary, or metastatic).
Brain tumors can grow at different speeds, and their growth rate and location will determine how they affect the nervous system.
What Causes Brain Tumors?
The cause of brain tumors is still not known and there are only a few confirmed risk factors that have been identified, including radiation exposure, a weakened immune system, and certain genetic syndromes.
What Are the Types of Brain Tumors?
Primary brain tumors are far less common than secondary tumors. They are classified depending on their location, as well as whether they’re benign or malignant.
Benign Primary Tumors: These are typically slow growing tumors with distinct borders that rarely spread to other regions of the brain. Some of these include:
- Chordoma: A rare tumor that occurs in the bones of the skull and spine; it is difficult to treat and requires highly specialized care.
- Craniopharyngioma: These tumors develop near the pituitary gland and most commonly affect children between 5 and 10 years old.
- Gangliocytoma: A rare tumor that develops from a mature group of nerve cells called ganglion cells; it’s most common in children and young adults.
- Ganglioglioma: Similar to gangliocytomas, these tumors arise in both ganglion cells and supportive cells that help neurons stay in their place and function. Very rare, they are usually grade I (low grade); however, anaplastic gangliogliomas are considered grade III (high grade) meaning they’re usually aggressive, malignant tumors.
- Glomus jugulare: Rare, slow growing tumors of the blood vessels located in the base of the brain in an area called the jugular foramen.
- Meningioma: Arise in membranes that support the brain and spinal cord called meninges; they are most typical in older women, but can occur at any age.
- Pineocytoma: These develop in the pineal gland (a small endocrine gland) and typically occur with a buildup of fluid pressure in the brain (hydrocephalus).
- Pituitary adenoma: A common tumor that arises in the pituitary gland which may disrupt hormonal balances and can have different effects throughout the body.
- Schwannoma (acoustic neuroma): A tumor that develops from a type of glia called Schwann cells in the tissue that covers nerves (nerve sheath); these nerves control balance and hearing.
Malignant Primary Tumors: These tumors are usually rapidly growing, invasive, and life threatening. Almost 80 percent of malignant tumors are gliomas, which is used to describe brain tumors that come from glia. These include:
- Astrocytoma: These account for about 50 percent of all brain tumors. They start in astrocytes, a type of glia, and most cannot be cured because they spread through normal brain tissue.
- Ependymoma: These account for less than 3 percent of all brain tumors, but up to 10 percent of brain tumors in children. They develop from ependymal cells, which line the cavities (ventricles) of the brain, and rarely spread outside the brain.
- Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM): This is the most common malignant primary brain tumor. They arise from glia, are often aggressive, and tend to infiltrate the surrounding brain tissue.
- Medulloblastoma: The most common malignant brain tumor in children but less common in adults, it starts in the lower back part of the brain and tends to spread through the spinal fluid.
- Oligodendroglioma: This is a rare tumor that comes from a type of glia called oligodendrocytes, an can be either low grade or high grade.
Secondary Brain Tumors: Secondary brain tumors are much more common than primary brain tumors and most often occur in people with a history of cancer, though they can also be a sign of cancer that began elsewhere in the body and spread to the brain. Any cancer can spread to the brain, but some of the most common types include breast cancer, colon cancer, kidney cancer, lung cancer, and melanoma.
What Are the Symptoms of a Brain Tumor?
Signs and symptoms of a brain tumor can vary significantly and depend on the size, location, and rate of growth of the tumor. Some of the more common signs and symptoms include:
- Changes or difficulties in speech or hearing
- Confusion in everyday matters
- Seizures, especially in someone that doesn’t have a history of seizures
- Vision problems (blurred vision, double vision, or loss of peripheral vision)
- Inability to concentrate
- Weakness in one part of the body
- Gradual loss of sensation/movement, numbness, or tingling in arms or legs
- Balance problems or issues with walking
- Unexplained nausea or vomiting
- Headaches that gradually become more frequent and severe
- Personality or behavior changes
How Is a Brain Tumor Diagnosed?
If you have persistent signs and symptoms and are concerned that you may have a brain tumor, please visit us at Raleigh Neurosurgical Clinic. We’ll evaluate your condition with a full medical history and a physical examination that includes a neurological examination for vision, balance, and other possible impairments.
If a tumor is suspected, additional tests may be necessary such as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), or computed tomography (CAT) scan, or an angiogram. We may also need to perform a biopsy to determine if the tumor is cancerous. This involves taking a small tissue sample from your brain and testing it for cancer.
How Is a Brain Tumor Treated?
Treating a brain tumor depends on the type, size, and location of the brain tumor, as well as the patient’s overall health and personal preferences. The most common treatment options include radiation and chemotherapy; however, surgery is typically the first option if the tumor is located in a part of the brain that’s accessible to be operated on.
Unfortunately, not all tumors can be removed due to their location in the brain, and it’s best to discuss your options and the risks involved with your neurosurgeon before making any major decisions.
At Raleigh Neurosurgical Clinic, we offer the following surgical procedures for brain tumors:
- Craniotomy: The removal of a brain tumor through an opening in the skull
- Stereotactic biopsy: A targeted biopsy to determine and remove suspicious tissue
- Stereotactic radiosurgery (gamma knife): Radiation therapy used to treat tumors
- Ventriculoperitoneal shunting: Used to treat the buildup of cerebral spinal fluid, or hydrocephalus, which can be a complication from a brain tumor [link to 3.1.5 hydrocephalus]
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Our neurosurgeons at Raleigh Neurosurgical Clinic are skilled and experienced at treating brain tumors. To meet with one of our brain tumor specialists, make an appointment today.