May is Brain Tumor Awareness Month, with nearly 700,000 people in the U.S. living with primary brain and central nervous system tumors.
Todd Vitaz, MD, neurosurgeon for the Spectrum Health Brain and Spine Tumor Center, talks about brain tumors and the importance of recognizing the symptoms.
Many different types of brain tumors exists; some are noncancerous while some brain tumors are. Brain tumors grow at varying rates, but the growth as well as location of the tumor will determine how it will affect the nervous system.
In most cases, the primary cause of the tumor is unclear. Some factors that may increase your risk of a brain tumor include:
- Exposure to radiation
- Family history of brain tumors.
Since tumors grow inside the body, it's important to diagnose the tumor before it's too late. Some general signs and symptoms caused by brain tumors include:
- New onset or change in pattern of headaches
- Frequent and severe headaches
- Vision problems
- Lost off sensation in arm or a leg
- Difficulty with balance
- Speech difficulties
- Personality or behavior changes
- Hearing problems.
If a patient has any of these symptoms, they need to see a doctor right away. To diagnose a brain tumor, the patient would undergo a neurological exam, which would entail a vision test, hearing, balance, coordination, strength and reflexes. This may provide clues about the part of the brain that could be affected. There would also be an MRI to diagnose the brain tumor.
The first treatment option is to undergo surgery to remove the tumor, but there are also other ways to get rid of the disease if surgery isn't an option. Spectrum Health has treatments such as an awake craniotomy and neuroendoscopy.
After analysis of the tumor tissue, treatment may also include:
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted therapies
- Immunological therapies
- Clinical trials
If you've been diagnosed with cancer and would like a second opinion of consultation, call 1-855-SHCANCER.