Neuro-oncology refers to the field of study specialising in brain and spinal cord neoplasms. Most of these can be very life-threatening.
Neurological cancer refers to the cancer cells that spread in the brain or the spine, sometimes even affecting both areas simultaneously. It occurs when the cells inside our brain reproduce uncontrollably, forming a mass. The mass thus formed is called a tumour which can be cancerous in nature or non-cancerous. The cancerous nature of this mass, also called the malignant neurological tumours, has the potency to spread to the other parts of the brain. The non-cancerous mass called the benign tumour, does not spread but can cause symptoms pertinent to neurological cancers.
There are two ways the brain can be affected by cancer-causing cells. It can either begin in the brain itself, also called a primary brain tumour, or spread from other parts of the body to the brain as a secondary brain tumours (metastatic). The rate at which the tumour grows and the location in which it is present is the determining factor of how it will affect the function of the nervous system.
Astrocytoma is cancer found in the brain and spinal cord in the cells called astrocytes. These cells perform the function of supporting the nerve cells.
The symptoms of an astrocytoma can vary depending on the size and location of the tumour. If the location of this tumour is in the spinal cord, then the symptoms felt are weakness and disability in the area where the tumour is located. The commonly regarded symptoms of astrocytoma in the brain include headaches, seizures and nausea.
2. ACOUSTIC NEUROMA
Also known as vestibular schwannoma, acoustic neuroma is known to be non-cancerous. It is a slow-growing tumour that grows on the main vestibular nerve that leads the inner ear to the brain. This nerve influences the balance and hearing of the body.
The common symptoms for acoustic neuroma are;
3. BRAIN METASTASES
Brain metastases refer to the condition when cancer spreads from its original site to the brain. The most likely cancers that spread to the brain may arise from the lung, breast, colon, kidney and melanoma.
This condition can result in one tumour or many tumours forming in the brain. As they gradually start growing, they will create pressure on the brain tissues and thereby affect the surrounding brain tissues' functions.
The symptoms for brain metastases can differ depending on the location where it is present. The common symptoms observed are;
Vomiting or nausea arising as a result of a headache
Weakness or numbness is felt on one side of the body.
This tumour can be found both in the brain and the spinal cord. Its origin is said to be in the ependymal cells. These cells are located in the passageway where the cerebrospinal fluid flows. This fluid performs the function of nourishing the brain. This condition is mostly found among young children. In adults, this condition is most likely to take place in the spinal cord.
The most common symptoms in this condition are said to be headaches and seizures. Adults may experience weakness in the part of the body that is controlled by the nerves that are affected by the tumour.
These are known to be common types of primary brain tumours. This tumour can form in the brain or the spinal cord. Its formation occurs in the glial cells, which are gluey in nature and perform the function of helping the nerve cells function. Glioma affects the function of the brain and can prove a threat to life depending on its growth rate and location.
The common symptoms experienced in glioma are as follows:
Difficulty on speech
Blurred visions or the loss of peripheral vision
Brain function is affected
Loss in balance
This tumour's origin is from the meninges, which are the membranes surrounding the brain and the spinal cord. It is the most common type of tumour that forms in the brain.
These are mostly slow in growth and can go unnoticed for an extended time. But in some cases, it affects the functions of the nearby brain tissues and nerves, often leading to serious disabilities. These are mostly found in women in old age.
Common symptoms experienced in meningioma are as follows:
Loss of smell
Change in vision
Difficulty in speech
This is a very rare kind of tumour, often aggressive in nature, found in the cells of the pineal gland found in the brain. This gland performs the function of producing the hormone called melatonin which plays a major role in our natural sleep-wake cycle.
This condition can occur at any age, but it is most commonly found in young children.
The treatment for this is very difficult as it spreads inside the brain and the cerebrospinal fluid, but it rarely spreads beyond that to the central nervous system.
The symptoms noticed in this condition include headaches, difficulty in sleeping, and changes in eye movement.
This tumour can take its formation in the brain and the spinal cord. These are formed by the cells present in the brain and the spinal cord called the oligodendrocytes. These cells produce the substance that protects the nerve cells. This condition can occur at any age, but usually, it is found among old people.
People suffering from this condition can experience headaches and seizures. There can also be weakness or disability in the part of the body that is controlled by the nerve cells and is affected by the tumour.
The first recommended test if suspected with a brain tumour is the neurological exam. In this test, the doctors examine the vision, hearing, balance, coordination, strength and reflexes of the patient. Difficulty experienced in any one of the areas can give an idea about the part of the brain that is probably affected by the tumour.
MRI ( Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is another test opted to diagnose the brain tumour.
A biopsy, that is, collecting the sample of abnormal tissues and testing them in the lab. In this procedure, the neurosurgeon often drills a small hole in the skull to insert a thin needle that will help remove the tissue for scanning.
PET/CT is also performed. These help to know about small tumours. They help figure out the degree to which the cancerous cells have spread.
The exact reason and cause for brain cancer are not known, and therefore one cannot specify the precautions one can take to avoid brain cancer. But there are some steps that an individual can take in order to stay away from the adverse effects of this disease.
Firstly, it is important to give up on smoking, which is the root cause of most of the symptoms experienced during cancer.
Family history can play a major role in contracting this disease. In such cases, it is important to consult the doctor when any of the symptoms are experienced.
Exposure to pesticides, fertilisers and herbicides can prove to be a vicious agent of brain cancer. Therefore, it is advised to stay away from these chemicals as much as possible.
Cancer-causing elements like lead, plastic, rubber, petroleum etc., are to be kept at a safe distance.
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