Brain Cancer: symptoms, signs, and treatment
Brain cancer can arise from primary brain cells, the cells that form other brain components (for example, membranes, blood vessels), or from the growth of cancer cells that develop in other organs and that have spread to the brain by the bloodstream
What Are Symptoms and Signs of Brain Cancer?
Not all brain tumors cause symptoms, and some are found mainly after death, with the death not caused by the brain tumor.
The symptoms of brain tumors are numerous and not specific to brain tumors, meaning they can be caused by many other illnesses as well. Many people have no awareness that they have brain cancer.
The only way to know for sure what is causing the symptoms is to undergo diagnostic testing.
The following symptoms and warning signs are the most common:
- Headache, especially in the early mornings, which may become persistent or severe
- Muscle weakness, which is often more evident on one side of the body than another
- Paresthesias, like feeling pins and needles or reduced touch sensations
- Clumsiness, problems with coordination, and a balance disorder
- Difficulty walking, with weakness or fatigue of arms and legs
Other nonspecific brain cancer symptoms and signs include the following:
- Altered mental status: changes in concentration, memory, attention, or alertness and/or mental confusion
- Nausea, vomiting: especially early in the morning with possible dizziness and vertigo
- Abnormalities in vision (for example, double vision, blurred vision, loss of peripheral vision)
- Difficulty with speech (impaired voice)
- Gradual changes in intellectual or emotional capacity; for example, difficulty or inability to speak or understand, personality changes
When Should Someone Seek Medical Care for Brain Cancer?
Seek care from a health-care provider right away, probably emergently, if a person develops any of the following symptoms:
- Unexplained, persistent vomiting
- Double vision or unexplained blurring of vision, especially on only one side
- Lethargy or increased sleepiness
- New seizures
- New pattern or type of headaches, especially early morning headaches
Although headaches are thought to be a common symptom of brain cancer, they may not occur until late in the progression of the disease.
If any significant change in a person’s headache pattern occurs rapidly, health-care professionals may suggest that he or she go the emergency department.
If a person has a known brain tumor, any new symptoms or relatively sudden or rapid worsening of symptoms also warrants a trip to the nearest hospital emergency department.
Be on the lookout for the following new symptoms:
- Changes in mental status, such as excessive sleepiness, memory problems, or inability to concentrate
- Visual changes or other sensory problems
- Difficulty with speech or in expressing oneself
- Changes in behavior or personality
- Clumsiness or difficulty walking
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sudden onset of fever, especially if the patient is receiving chemotherapy treatments.
What Are Treatments for Brain Cancer?
Treatment for brain cancer should be individualized for each patient. Treatment plans are base on the patient’s age and general health status as well as the size, location, type, and grade of the tumor.
In most cases of brain cancer, surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are the main types of treatment. Often, they use more than one treatment type. The treatment types are further described below.
The patient, family, and friends will have many questions about the tumor, the treatment, how treatment will affect the person, and the person’s long-term outlook Members of the person’s health-care team are the best source of this information. Don’t hesitate to ask them any questions.
Self-Care for Brain Cancer
The person’s health-care provider and the physician team in charge of their case should discuss details about home care with both the patient and family members.
- Home care usually includes supportive measures needed according to the patient’s symptoms. For example, they may give the patients walkers as for those patients who have gait or minor balance problems.
- If a person has mental-status changes, assigning a caregiver may be good for the patient’s daily medications.
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