Being diagnosed with a brain tumor can be a very frightening and confusing, so it’s important to note that not all tumors mean the worst.
A brain tumor is any abnormal growth of cells in the brain. There are different types of brain tumors, which are usually named after the type of cells they develop from. In addition, brain tumors can be categorized into primary and metastatic tumors. Primary tumors originate in the brain whereas metastatic tumors originate elsewhere in the body and spread to the brain, usually through the bloodstream.
Not all brain tumors are malignant (cancerous); some are benign (noncancerous) and won’t spread. Malignant brain tumors can spread into surrounding brain tissue causing pressure and problems depending on which areas of the brain are affected. These cancerous tumors can also spread to the spinal cord. Despite being noncancerous, benign tumors can still cause major health problems because the tumor can press on important areas of the brain or increase the pressure inside the brain.
The risk of developing brain tumors generally increases with age, but you can develop a brain tumor at any age. That said, there are some brain tumors that are more likely to affect teenagers and young adults, such as:
A glioma is a type of cancerous tumor that starts in the glial cells (located in the brain and spine). Glial cells are the supporting cells of the nervous system, they surround neurons and supply them with oxygen and nutrients as well as remove any dead neurons. Gliomas are graded from 1 (slow-growing tumors) to 4 (fast-growing, aggressive tumors).
There are a number of different gliomas, but the most common among young adults are:
- Astrocytomas – these tumors start in cells called astrocytes, which help support and nourish nerve cells. Some astrocytomas can spread extensively throughout the brain and mix with normal brain tissue, making them hard to remove by surgery. They can also spread to the spinal cord. Astrocytomas are grouped by grade, from 1 to 4 (with 4 being the most serious).
- Oligodendrogliomas – these tumors start in brain cells called oligodendrocytes and they make a fatty substance to help nerve cells send electric signals. They tend to grow at a slow rate, but they can spread into nearby brain tissue and can’t always be removed completely by surgery. They can become more aggressive over time.
- Ependymomas – These tumors develop in ependymal cells, a type of glial cell that lines the cavities of the brain containing cerebrospinal fluid. Ependymomas can range from grade 1 to grade 3. These tumors do not typically spread into areas with normal brain tissue, so they can be more easily removed with surgery.
- Brain stem gliomas – A brain stem glioma is any type of glioma that starts in the brain stem. Brain stem gliomas can spread throughout normal tissue, rather than grow in a cluster, which can make them hard to treat.
Medulloblastomas are types of embryonal tumors that start from cells that haven’t correctly developed. The tumors begin in early forms of nerve cells in the central nervous system and usually start in the cerebellum toward the back of the brain. This area of the brain manages voluntary movements such as speech, coordination, and balance.
There are different types of medulloblastomas. Some can spread to the spinal cord and, in rare cases, to other parts of the body. Some can be more easily and effectively treated than others.
Pituitary adenomas are the most common type of tumor that grows in the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain. The pituitary gland creates hormones that help to regulate growth, metabolism, sperm production, and menstruation.
The good news is that pituitary adenomas are almost always noncancerous and slow-growing.
Even so, pituitary adenomas can still cause significant health problems such as changes to vision and headaches. This is because there is little room in this part of the skull, which can mean the tumor presses on and damages parts of the brain and surrounding nerves.
Some pituitary tumors may cause hormones to be released in excessive amounts, causing conditions such as gigantism and Cushing’s disease, depending on which hormone has been affected. Other pituitary tumors may cause too few hormones to be produced, but this is much less common.
Symptoms of a Brain Tumor
The symptoms of a brain tumor will depend on where it is location, along with its size and type.
The most common symptom of brain tumors are headaches. These headaches tend to be the most intense in the morning. Headaches may also be accompanied by:
- Balance and dizziness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Hearing problems
- Memory loss
- Mood or personality changes
- Numbness in the limbs
- Seizures or convulsions
- Speech difficulties
- Vision problems
- Walking difficulty
Because many of these signs and symptoms can be caused by other health problems, talk to your doctor if you or a loved one are suffering from any of these signs or symptoms so that your doctor can diagnose and treat you appropriately.
Front Range Spine and Neurosurgery in CO
If you would like more information about brain tumors, the friendly staff at Front Range Spine and Neurosurgery have a wealth of knowledge and experience treating a wide range of neurological conditions, including brain tumors.
Dr. Rauzzino has years of expertise in surgically removing all types of tumors. We offer diagnostic testing and treatments including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy for benign and malignant tumors of the brain, spine, and spinal cord. Our main focus is providing you with the best possible experience.