What Is A Brain Tumour?
A tumour is classified as an irregular growth of cells inside the body. Brain tumours affect the brain or surrounding tissues in the skull. Some are benign (harmless), others are malignant and can cause serious health concerns. Metastatic brain tumours begin as cancer in other parts of the body and spread to the brain. Both of these can result in impaired brain function and evenbe fatal if left untreated. Despite this grim outlook, the majority of the many types of brain tumours can be treated. Treatment options can either attempt to cure the condition or simply relieve symptoms. Recovery and rehabilitation is often needed to help patients recover in terms of their overall health.
Brain Tumour Classification
Brain tumours are so deadly because as the tumour grows it takes up more and more space in the skull and there is no room for the brain to accomdet this change. The tumour can gradually press against areas of the brain that can be vital to everyday function. This can be life-threatening, even in benign cases.
Tumour cells have been classified by the World Health Organisation into four different categories (grades). Each of these grades has different characteristics that are attributed according to what is observed under a microscope by treating teams. The Glioma Grading Scale is listed below:
|I||Slow growing cells
Almost normal appearance
Usually associated with long-term survival
|II||Relatively slow growing cells
Slightly abnormal appearance
Can invade nearby tissue
Sometimes recur as a higher grade
|III||Actively reproducing abnormal cells
Infiltrate normal tissue
Tend to recur, often as a higher grade
|IV||Rapidly reproducing abnormal cells
Very abnormal appearance
Area of dead cells (necrosis) in centre
Form new blood vessels to maintain growth
Brain Tumour Symptoms
Tumours affect the normal brain tissue in the skull. They cause damage to healthy tissue, compress normal tissue or increase pressure on the cranium. Symptoms vary depending on the tumour’s grade, size and location in the brain. General symptoms include:
- Stumbling, dizziness, difficulty walking
- Speech problems
- Vision problems
- Weakness on one side of the body
- Drowsiness, nausea, vomiting and sluggish responses
- Behavioural and emotional changes.
Brain Tumour Diagnosis
Brain condition diagnoses are very complex and involve a number of examinations designed to check mental status, memory, nerve function (sensory function), muscle strength, coordination, reflexes and responses to pain. CT and MRI scans are also used to identify whether there are abnormalities located within the brain that could pose a threat to general health. A PET (positron emission tomography) scan may be used to identify timours. A radioactive solution is injected to show up cancer cells, as they absorb the solution faster than normal cells.
Brain Cancer Treatment Options
Treatment options will depend on the location of the tumour, it’s size, grade and whether it has spread elsewhere in the body. A treatment will be prescribed by either a medical oncologist or a radiation oncologist. The following list of treatment options describes how each treatment works and when it may be applied.
- Observation may occur when benign tumours are observed. With annual MRI scans, the tumour can be observed and treatment delayed until growth or symptoms requires surgery.
- Surgery is the best treatment for brain tumours that can be reached without causing injury to important parts of the brain. Surgery removes as much of the tumour as possible and reduces pressure in the skull. Radiation or chemotherapy may be used to destroy the remaining cells.
- Laser Interstitial Thermal Therapy is also called MRI- guided laser ablation. This minimally invasive technique aims to destroys the tumour from the inside out. A laser is precisely guided through a thin wire to the target area and the tumour tissue is ablated.
- Radiation therapy involves the use of igh dose radiation to treat brain tumours. The radiation prevents the abnormal cells from dividing and growing. This treatment option is especially useful in the treatment of malignant tumours whose cells divide rapidly. Radiation can be delivered from an external or internal source.
- Chemotherapy works in a similar fashion to radiation therapy. Drugs to kill malignant tumours are administered orally, intravenously or surgically and disrupt the brain cell during division. Chemotherapy is traditionally used for high grade gliomas (tumours). It is not used often for benign tumours.
Contact Sydney Brain and Spine
If you have recently been diagnosed with a brain tumour requiring surfival intervention, contact us for a preliminary appointment today. Dr Mark Winder is one of the best neurosurgeons in Australia and has extensive credentials and experience successfully treating brain tumours. He will assist you the whole way on the path to recovery: from diagnosis, to treatment and finally recovery and rehabilitation. Our offices are open Monday to Friday, from 9AM to 5PM, call us on 02 8382 6724 as soon as you can.