Gradual symptoms include limb weakness, difficulty with speech and walking, says director of Cleveland Clinic’s Rose Ella Burkhardt Brain Tumor and Neuro-Oncology Center.
Widespread lack of knowledge of brain tumor symptoms causes unfounded anxiety among hordes of people and leads others to delay seeking help, a leading brain surgeon has said.
Speaking ahead of World Brain Tumor Day, which falls annually on June 8th, Gene Barnett, M.D. said the most common red flags were very similar to those of strokes.
“Instead of a sudden onset there are gradually progressive symptoms: weakness in a limb, numbness; difficulty walking; difficulty with speech; change in personality; and gradually progressive change in vision,” he said.
“There are, however, a few more abrupt things: the onset of a seizure can be a warning sign.”
A brain tumor is a collection, or mass, of abnormal cells in the brain. Because the skull is rigid, any growth inside this restricted space can cause problems, whether or not it is cancerous (malignant).
Dr. Barnett said the condition could affect anyone, at any time, with primary tumors typically occurring ‘out of the blue’. He added that brain tumors are rarely linked to lifestyle, unlike those affecting some other parts of the body, such as the lungs, liver, or mouth.
“Most brain tumors are thought to be sporadic or random in nature,” he said. “There is a small group of patients for which there is a hereditary predisposition, but that is thought to be uncommon.”
Despite this understanding among medical professionals, myths about tumors, particularly cancerous ones, persist in many societies. Perhaps the most common is the fear that cell phone use may lead to brain tumors. While it is true that mobiles emit radiation, Dr. Barnett says this fear is misplaced.
“The evidence that suggests that cell phones have anything to do with brain tumors is exceedingly weak, and there is a preponderance of evidence that suggests there is no relationship, so I really wouldn’t worry about that as being a cause,” he said.
Contrary to another popular belief, headaches are rarely a presenting symptom of a brain tumor, and while severe or persistent pain ought to be investigated, patients should not be unduly afraid.
Early detection may lead to better outcomes in a number of types of tumors, so anyone concerned about some type of neurological problem that is not getting better, or seems to be getting worse, should see a physician.
Fortunately, the prognosis for both benign and malignant brain tumors is now better than at any point in history.
Dr. Barnett states that the most common malignant tumors that appear in the brain are those that start elsewhere, such as the lung or breast. In these cases, the widespread availability of radiosurgery – a targeted radiation treatment – have improved outcomes significantly. Often, a combination of methods is used, including surgery, laser treatments, radiation, chemotherapy, and other drug therapies such as immunotherapy.
Cleveland Clinic, based in the mid-western U.S. state of Ohio, has pioneered a number of techniques that have revolutionized the way brain tumors are treated.
A procedure called ‘tumor-treating fields’, offered at Cleveland Clinic, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration two years ago, for use in newly diagnosed as well as recurrent malignant primary tumors.
With this groundbreaking therapy, electrodes are placed on the head and electrical waves passed through the brain to prevent a tumor’s growth.
“By passing electrical waves through the brain at certain frequencies, we can suppress tumor cells from dividing,” Dr. Barnett says.
Barnett is the director of Cleveland Clinic’s Rose Ella Burkhardt Brain Tumor and Neuro-Oncology Center. Currently, his main interest is in the use of radiosurgery. He is also focused on laser ablation to treat both tumors and radiation injuries to the brain, the latter of which are occasionally sustained as result of radiation treatment.
“We were the first worldwide to use this particular device in human brain tumors, in the late 2000s, and it’s still in development,” Dr. Barnett added.
“Right now, it’s a treatment you can get for a number of brain tumors in the United States and certain parts of North America, but eventually I see this spreading out throughout the world and being an important instrument in the neurosurgeon’s toolbox.”
Source: Cleveland Clinic