Early Warning Signs and Treatments of Brain Cancer
Getting an early cancer diagnosis gives you the best chance of recovery and relieving symptoms. Brain cancer is one of the most harmful forms of cancer. Since it has symptoms associated with common and everyday illnesses, it can be easy for this type of cancer to go unnoticed for a long period of time.
Brain cancers are the abnormal growths of cells that form a tumor. The tumors can be cancerous or benign, but they both pose an equal risk to a person’s well-being. About 700,000 Americans are estimated to currently be living with a brain tumor.
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Here’s what you need to know about brain cancer.
Symptoms and Warning Signs
Although there are over 120 types of brain tumors that each have their own unique traits, many of them share general symptoms. These symptoms can often be mistaken for other illnesses. This leads some people to wait long before eventually being diagnosed with brain cancer. If the brain tumor is severe enough, some people may end up in a coma.
The symptoms and early warning signs of brain cancer are:
- Headaches that are worse in the morning or when engaging in activities;
- Trouble walking;
- Finding it difficult to balance;
- Thinking, memory, behavior, and personality changes;
- Vision or hearing problems;
- Difficulty with fine motor skills, and;
- Drowsiness, fatigue, or confusion.
A patient might experience a combination of these symptoms, which makes each case unique to the individual. It’s important to see a doctor soon after you start experiencing these symptoms to get an early diagnosis and receive treatment.
Diagnosing Brain Cancer
A serious illness like brain cancer requires intensive testing and procedures to determine an accurate diagnosis. After doing the necessary testing to name a diagnosis, a treatment plan will be developed to help the patient.
There are several things doctors will do if they think your symptoms could be a tumor.
A neurological exam is done to examine your vision, hearing, coordination, and reflexes. If a patient has relevant symptoms and is having difficulty with these functions, it can give doctors a better idea of which part of the brain the tumor is affecting.
When someone has one form of cancer, there’s always a chance it could spread to other parts of the body. This is known as metastasis.
Doctors might order a CT scan, PET scan, or MRI. This is done to see if the condition has spread to other parts of the body related to their symptoms.
Determining the Stage
Once the test results are completed, it’s time for doctors to label it with a stage. This will be based on a number of factors such as the tumor size, location, likelihood of removing it, and whether or not the cancer has spread.
The four stages of brain cancer are:
- Grade I: A slow growing tumor that rarely spreads to other tissues. Since this is such an early stage, there is a possibility of removing the tumor via surgery.
- Grade II: A slow growing tumor that may spread to nearby tissues.
- Grade III: The tumor is growing quickly. As such, it will likely spread to nearby tissues.
- Grade IV: The tumor is rapidly growing and spreading.
A biopsy is another tool doctors might perform in order to determine a diagnosis. It involves taking a tissue sample from the patient for close examination. This helps the doctor determine if the tumor is cancerous or benign.
Treatments for Brain Cancer
Brain cancer treatments will differ between patients. Therefore, a doctor’s course of action will first consider factors such as a patient’s age, the stage of the cancer, their general health, and everything they know about the tumor.
Doctors might choose to do a combination of treatments if it would benefit the patient’s outcome. For severe cases, patients might enter a palliative form of care if it’s no longer an option to treat their cancer.
Surgery is usually the first form of treatment for brain cancer patients. The primary goal with surgery is to remove as much as the tumor as possible without damaging any critical areas of the brain. This is more likely to be successful when done during the cancer’s earlier stages.
Radiation therapy would usually be done after surgery to slow or stop the growth of remaining tumor cells.
There are different forms of radiation that use focused beams to target areas of the tumor. Depending on the patient’s condition, this treatment could take days or weeks until completed.
Another main form of brain cancer treatment is chemotherapy. It’s a drug-based treatment that works to slow, stop, or destroy tumor cells. It’s also a way to help reduce recurring symptoms of cancer.
The sooner a patient is diagnosed and begins treatment, the better chances of survival. The survival rates will vary and depend on things like the patient’s age and type of tumor.
It’s estimated that over 18,000 patients will die due to some form of brain cancer in 2020, making it a serious condition that needs to be caught early.
Every Cancer Diagnosis Is Different
The good news is the chances of developing brain cancer is less than one percent. Therefore, it is an extremely rare condition to develop. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be vigilant. Those who experience possible symptoms should make an appointment with their doctor.
Each patient with brain cancer has a different experience, prognosis, and outcome. Cancer is often an unpredictable disease that can’t always be prevented. By monitoring your health and noticing any changes with your well-being, you might be able to notice if something is wrong and seek help before it becomes too severe.
Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about your health. Your symptoms might not have anything to do with cancer, but it’s good to make sure and learn what you can do to get better.