Brain Tumor: Types, Risk Factors, and Symptoms – Dr Ashis Pathak
FAQs – BRAIN TUMOR (Dr Ashis Pathak, Director Neuro Surgery, Fortis Hospital Mohali)
What are the symptoms of a Brain Tumor?
We have to understand that the incidence of brain tumor is around 14 to 15 persons per 1 lakh and of these 2 to 4 % will be malignant tumors, meaning cancerous tumors. Therefore, the symptoms of the brain Tumors can be diverse –
- Deteriorating or gradual loss of vision
- Worsened hearing
- Sensory problems – weakness or numbness in the limbs or a tickling sensation.
- Headaches – headaches that are not getting better or are deteriorating
- Seizures / fits
Please note that these symptoms may not appear to everyone suffering from a Brain Tumor. However, if you suffer from any of the above symptoms, immediately consult your doctor.
Who is at a higher risk of developing Brain Tumors?
Brain Tumor can happen to anyone including neonates, children, adults, or even in the older age group. There is also no such distinction that makes men more prone than women or vice versa.
Is Brain Tumor genetic?
Not at all tumors run in family but yes, there are certain categories of tumors that have a familiar basis or a genetic basis. One of the most common things we talk about is neurofibromatosis. This genetic alteration runs in a family. Such patients are prone to having multiple brain tumors. Sometimes if you have a tumor in one part of the body as a part of genetic alteration, you can also develop a tumor in the brain. We must understand that smoking can cause tumors in the lungs, which can spread other parts of the body (metastasis).
Are all the brain Tumors the same?
Tumors of the brain are be broadly divided into two categories – one is a benign tumor that is less harmful and the other of course is a malignant (cancerous) brain tumor. Benign tumors can grow very slowly and detected after several years. One very common example is of those patients, who keep getting seizures for years due to improper investigation and suddenly find out there is a tumor.
How do you diagnose a brain tumor?
When anyone suspects a brain tumor or suffers from any of the aforementioned symptoms, they should have an MRI Scan done, which gives a preliminary idea about the tumor. One should know that MRI Scan machines are of different kinds hence it is always better to get an MRI done in one of the latest MRI machines, which gives much clearer and sharper pictures. There are various sequences in MRI where you can even tell whether this tumor a fast growing or slow growing. It also gives the dimension and location of the Tumor. Besides MRI Scan, we have other investigations like petrography and sometimes if it is a tumor of the bone, a CT scan is helpful which tells about the involvement of the bone and boney destruction. Sometimes to see whether the tumor has got a heavy blood supply we have to do the angiography of the brain, which is also possible through MRI or CT scan.
What is the treatment for brain tumors?
If it is a cancerous tumor, it produces pressure and swelling on the brain. In such cases, the patient must seek treatment as soon as possible. The Neuro team must try to find out what sort of cancerous tumor it is, whether it is arising from the brain itself or it has spread from other parts of the body. A PET scan can help immensely as it helps detect an abnormal tumor in any part of the body, be it the brain or other parts of the body from which it spread. If it is a tumor arising or primarily originating from the brain then of course we have to think whether it is producing pressure effect on the brain and in that case, an urgent surgery might be needed. However, there are certain tumors arising from the pituitary gland, which on investigation might show that some of these pituitary tumors are also amenable by medicine. Some of the tumors might have spread from other parts of the body and in that case, medicines or chemotherapy might be helpful. So not all tumors need surgery but the majority of them would need surgery.
Is surgery of the brain tumor safe? What should one look for in a facility while undergoing treatment for a Tumor?
Surgery about two decades ago had a very poor outcome because in those days we did not have all the facilities and the gadgets to do safe surgery. However, with the development of modern technology, surgery of the brain tumors has become reasonably safe and we can even predict the risks and outcomes in a better way. Mortality in brain tumor surgery should be less than 1 % with all the available facilities nowadays. A facility must possess Equipment like the Neuro-Navigation, latest Microscopes, various dyes that can illuminate or brighten up the Tumor and distinguish it from the surrounding brain and a team of experts of course who are experienced in handling both the complexity of the case and the equipment. The issue is the availability of these gadgets because they are costly equipment and only well-equipped centers can afford to have them.