Hearing that you have a brain tumor can be devastating news, but remember that not all tumors are cancerous, and many can be effectively treated. The most important thing you can do is to learn the early warning signs so you can seek immediate medical attention. The earlier a brain tumor is diagnosed, the sooner you can begin treatment and the greater the chance you’ll recover.
At Apex Spine and Neurosurgery, with offices in Roswell, Alpharetta, and Bethlehem, Georgia, our expert neurosurgeons specialize in diagnosing and treating a wide range of spinal, cranial, and brain conditions, including brain tumors. We want our patients to be informed about the possible warning signs of a growing tumor, so we’ve put together this guide to get you in the know.
The basics of tumors
The National Cancer Institute defines a tumor as “an abnormal mass of tissue that results when cells divide more than they should or do not die when they should.”
In a healthy body, cells grow and divide normally, and they eventually die and are replaced by new ones that form. With cancer, however, new cells form when they’re not needed, and if there are too many of them, they can collect into a group called a tumor.
There are three main types of tumors:
These masses are not cancerous. They may be unable to grow or grow very slowly. Or, they may grow large, but they’re unable to spread into nearby tissues or other areas of the body. When a benign tumor is removed, it doesn’t usually return.
These tumors are not yet cancerous, but the cells have the potential to become so.
These tumors are cancerous, with cells that grow and invade surrounding tissues, crowding out normal cells. They can also spread to other areas of the body through the lymphatic system and the bloodstream.
It’s not always clear how a given tumor will behave in the future, and it’s possible that benign tumors might become premalignant and then malignant. As a result, it’s always best to be under a doctor’s care so you can monitor any tumor growth.
Warning symptoms of brain tumors
Brain tumors can cause both physical and mental symptoms, the specifics of which depend on the tumor’s type, location, and stage of development. The symptoms are similar whether the tumor is benign or malignant.
Primary brain tumors are those that originate in the brain. Metastatic tumors are secondary tumors, those that start elsewhere in the body and spread to the brain.
As we mentioned, the location of a tumor in the brain helps determine what symptoms it causes. For example, a tumor in the cerebrum, the front part of the brain that controls thinking and language, may cause personality changes or trouble understanding words.
In general, any of the following may be symptoms of a brain tumor:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weakness or numbness in the arm, leg, or face
- Difficulty balancing
- Memory issues
- Problems speaking or understanding words
- Blurry vision
- Problems walking
- Swallowing problems
- Changes in speech
- Hearing loss
A person with a brain tumor may also have trouble with fine motor skills such as holding a pen or buttoning a shirt. And in some cases brain tumors may have no symptoms.
Brain tumor treatments
At Apex Spine and Neurosurgery, we offer three main treatments for brain tumors:
Here, we aim to remove as much of the tumor as we possibly can. It’s important to know we can’t always remove the entire mass, since there may be a risk of damaging part of the brain. Your Apex neurosurgeon apprises you of the risks beforehand.
Chemotherapy kills actively growing cells, and cancer cells reproduce prolifically. But the drugs also kill healthy cells that are growing, so there may be unpleasant side effects.
This therapy uses high-energy X-rays to destroy brain cancer cells. One of the advanced techniques we use is stereotactic radiosurgery. We use a CT scan or an MRI to deliver a targeted radiation dose directly into the tumor.
Are you experiencing any of the warning signs of a brain tumor? If so, we’re here to give you prompt medical attention. Contact Apex Spine and Neurosurgery by calling our office nearest you, or you can set up an appointment online today. Don’t delay.