What is Brain Cancer - New Advancements
Brain Cancer Types
Scientist are making great strides in the treatment of brain cancer while the average person asks the question exactly "What is Brain Cancer? There are two main types of brain cancer, one which is called primary brain cancer because it actually starts in the brain. The second type is metastatic brain cancer, as it starts somewhere else in the body and moves to the brain. Not all brain tumors are cancerous or malignant, but if they are the cells grow very quickly. Fortinately 75 percent of brain tumors are benign.
According to the National Cancer Institute doctors can seldom explain why one person develops a brain tumor and another does not, so the exact cause of brain tumors is really unknown. Primary brain cancer cells begin its growth in the substance of the brain, spinal cord or nerves. The metastatic brain tumors spreading from other parts are most often from lung cancer, breast cancer or colon cancer.
Xray of Brain Tumor
Statistics about Brain Tumors
Over 600,000 people in the US are living with a primary brain tumor and over 28,000 of these cases are among children under the age of 20 (over 7% total)
Metastatic brain tumors typically occur in 20% to 40% of people with cancer.
Approximately 210,000 people in the US will be diagnosed with the primary or metastatic brain tumor this year.
Among children under 20 years of age, brain tumors are the most common form of a solid tumor and the second leading cause of cancer related deaths following leukemia.
Cancer treatment is very complicated because there are over 120 different types of brain tumors.
Most Common Types of Brain Tumors for Adults
Gliomas are tumors which grow in the glial cells, helping to support the critical areas of the brain and are responsible for 42% of all adult brain tumors. These tumors are categorized by the types of cells they affect.
Astrocytomas are star shaped cells which protect neurons, and cancers in this category are graded from 1 to 4, with the growth being more aggressive at number four. The grade of this cancer determines the outcome for the patient.
Oligodendrogliomas cells make myelin, which is a fatty substance that protects nerve cells. This type of cancer primarily affects people over the age of 45 and makes up 4% of brain tumors. It is typically sensitive to treatment and half of the patients with this type of cancer are alive after five years.
Ependymoma is a rare type of cancer (making up 2%) and the ependymal cells line the pathways which carries cerebrospinal fluid throughout the, brain and spinal cord.
Meningiomas affect the tissue that forms a protective outer covering of the brain and spine and one quarter of brain and spinal tumors are meningiomas, but up to 85% of them are be benign.
Heartbreaking Child with Brain Cancer
Cancer Symptoms in Children
Medulloblastomas are a common brain tumor in children, usually diagnosed before the age of 10. It occurs in the cerebellum, which is crucial to muscular coordination and movement. Some scientists believe this cancer arises from fetal cells that remain in the cerebellum after birth, but the tumors grow quickly and can invade other portions of the brain. Fortunately this cancer is rare but does affect about 500 children annually in the United States.
The children's symptoms are similar with a few difference from adults:
- Headaches occurring in the morning, which improve throughout the day
- Headaches that occur while coughing or during physical activity
- Vomiting soon after awakening
- Clumsiness or unsteadiness
- Swollen optic nerve
- Increased sleep
Symptoms of Brain Tumors
Symptoms of Brain Cancer for Adults
The following list is some of the more common brain cancer symptoms and signs:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Headaches, which are usually worse in the morning
- Attention to changes in your ability to talk, hear or see
- Problems with balance or walking
- Problems with thinking or memory
- Tingling or numbness in your arms or legs
- Muscles jerking or twitching
Brain and CNS Types of Tumors Chart
Treatment of Cancer
Currently surgeons can remove about 99% of most brain tumors, but the small cells are left to multiply swiftly, often resisting treatment. One of the more exciting research projects is a new vaccine that scientist say will actually help cure a patient of brain cancer. It is still in the research stage but looks promising. It is specifically designed to affect glioblastoma
Proton therapy is an advanced form of radiation, which is only available at eight centers in the United States. It has been found to be very effective in treating pediatric cancers. Its precision and ability to target tumors makes it very effective, plus there are less treatment side effects.
At the present time most brain tumors are treated by surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy used individually or in combination. There are also hormonal treatments, which are drugs designed to prevent cancer growth by preventing the cells from their continued growth and division. There is also targeted therapy, antibodies and biological response modifiers, which all work in a similar fashion.
While complementary and alternative medicines are not typically practiced by conventional Western medicine, they are used effectively in some other countries and include herbal, animal derived and mind-body approaches to treating cancer. At this point the scientific evidence about the efficacy of these treatments is either inconclusive or refuted. It is well documented, however, that our minds are powerful and we might have more control over what is happening in our bodies than we realize. Certainly meditation and yoga have been shown to be very effective in stress reduction and other types of diseases.
New Brain Cancer Treatment Offers Hope
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Since no two brain tumors are exactly alike, the prognosis is dependent upon several factors, which include the type of tumor, the location, the response to treatment, an individual's age and overall health status.
An individual with a primary malignant brain or central nervous system tumor will typically live five years or longer. For children, over 72% will survive a brain tumor, but they may be left with life long-term side effects.
Obviously brain cancer is something that is scary to even think about, but it is good to be aware of the most common symptoms.
© 2011 Pamela Oglesby
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