What is a tumor?
A tumor is an abnormal growth of cells. Cells are the basic building blocks of the body, forming tissues and organs. The body creates new cells continuously to help us grow, repair injured tissues, and replace worn-out cells. A normal cell multiplies and dies in an orderly manner, so that every new cell replaces the previous one. In some cases, however, cells develop abnormally and grow. In case of solid cancers (lump of sick cells), such as breast cancer, a brain tumor (where cells grow abnormally), the abnormal cells form a mass or lump called a tumor. Tumors of the brain can be divided into two types: benign and malignant. These terms are also used for tumors in other body parts besides the brain.
The growth of benign brain tumors is usually slow and they are unlikely to spread. They are also called low-grade tumors or non-malignant tumors. Benign tumors grow and affect the functioning of the brain. An immediate treatment may be needed for this condition because it might be life-threatening. Sometimes, a benign tumor can change over time and become severe.
Malignant brain tumors can multiply. As they may spread within the brain and spinal cord, or even recur after treatment, they are considered life-threatening. A malignant brain tumor may also be called brain cancer. Unlike malignant tumors in other parts of the body, malignant brain tumors usually do not spread outside the brain and spinal cord.
Cancer of the brain that first develops in the brain is known as primary brain cancer. The disease may spread to other parts of the nervous system, but seldom spreads to the body.
In some cases, cancer can start in another part of the body and spread into the brain through the bloodstream. This particular condition is called Secondary cancer or called metastasis. Melanoma, lung, breast, kidney, and bowel cancers are the most likely to spread to the brain. But the metastasis will retain its original cancer’s name. Eg. A bowel cancer that has spread to the brain is still called bowel cancer even when the person has symptoms because cancer is in the brain.
How common is brain tumor?
Benign brain and spinal cord tumors are more common than malignant tumors. Over 28,000 cases of brain tumors are reported in India every year, and more than 24,000 people die from brain tumors every year, according to the International Association of Cancer Registries (IARC).
Glioma tumors are the most common category of brain tumors Gliomas are tumors that start in the glial (neuroglia) cells of the brain.
Brain and spinal cord tumors are usually caused by factors that remain unknown or exact, but some factors are known to increase the risk:
Family history: Although brain tumors rarely run-in families, a genetic defect, usually passed down from either mother or father, can put a person at an increased risk. For example, some people have a genetic condition called neurofibromatosis, which can lead to brain and spinal cord tumors.
Radiation therapy: People who have had radiation therapy to the head, particularly to treat childhood leukemia, may have a slightly higher risk of developing a brain tumor.
Mobile phones and microwave ovens: Many people are concerned that electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones or microwave ovens may cause a brain tumor. Till date, there is no evidence that using a mobile phone causes cancer. Researchers continue to study the long-term effects of mobile phone usage. If you’re worried about the potential harm from mobile phones, limiting your mobile phone usage time, or sending texts rather than calling. Microwave ovens have been in widespread use since the 2000s. There is no evidence that ovens release electromagnetic radiation at levels harmful to people.
Symptoms depend on where the tumor is in the brain and how slowly or quickly the tumor is growing. In some cases, it can occur suddenly, while in others, it can take time to develop.
Brain tumors can increase pressure inside the skull (known as intracranial pressure). Tumors can cause pressure to build up because they take up too much space in the brain or block cerebrospinal fluid flow. The increased pressure can cause symptoms such as:
- Headaches – especially worse after waking up
- Nausea and vomiting – often worse in the morning or aftermovements (e.g. sitting, standing)
- Confusion and irritability
- Blurred or double vision
- Seizures (fits) – Your hands, arms, or legs may jerk or twitch, or your whole body may jerk or twitch
- Loss of consciousness
- Weakness in parts of the body
- Drowsiness – a later symptom. Symptoms caused by the position of the tumor – Other symptoms depend on where the tumor are located in the brain or spinal cord
What is brain tumor?
The brain tumor is formed when abnormal cells grow together and form a lump or mass. Neurons and glial cells make up the brain’s main types of cells. Whether benign or malignant, tumors can be severe and may require urgent treatment.
How many types of tumors are there?
There are different types of brain tumors based on different types of brain tissues and cells. Primary tumors of the brain are classified into more than 40 types (also called central nervous system or CNS tumors). They can begin anywhere in the brain or spinal cord. Based on the type of cell they start in and how they are likely to behave, tumors are classified (based on their genetic make-up).