What Is Brain Cancer?
Brain cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the central nervous system (CNS). Brain cancer may either be primary or secondary. Secondary brain cancer is due to metastases from other primary cancer sites such as the lung, kidney, colon or breast.
There are many different classification systems for brain tumours. Brain cancers are sometimes classified according to the histological cell type. That means they are classified according to the normal neural cell type from which the malignancy originates. Astrocytomas, Oligodendrogliomas, Meningiomas, Medulloblastomas and Ependymomas are histological malignancy types that originate from neural tissue cells. There are more than hundred and ten different kinds of brain tumours.
Some brains cancers occur more often in children. While others occur more often in adults. Malignancies seen in paediatric populations are astrocytomas, medulloblastomas and ependymomas.
Brain cancer is diagnosed by radiological investigations, with contrasted Ct scans and MRIs being the preferred studies. There are no specific blood tests for brain cancer. History and physical examination may prompt doctors to do radiological investigations, especially if worrisome or persistent signs are present.
What Are The Symptoms Of Brain Cancer?
Brain cancer is a space occupying lesion in the cranium. Space that is needed for the brain and ventricles to function normally is taken up by a malignant mass. This additional mass causes increased pressure in the space-limited intracranial space (enclosed by the rigid skull). As the skull cannot expand in adulthood, adults with cancer will present with symptoms of raised intracranial pressure.
These include projectile vomiting, early morning nausea, early morning headache, visual disturbances or new onset seizures. Symptoms of raised intracranial pressure may also present other benign conditions such as meningitis, encephalitis and other space-occupying lesions such as tuberculomas in TB, or aneurysms.
Depending on where the cancer is located in the brain, it may cause specific symptoms due to impairment of that particular area of the brain's function. Symptoms may include the change in behaviour or personality (frontal brain), loss of sensation or motor function in a limb or one side of the body, difficulty maintaining balance, gait abnormalities or impaired coordination (cerebellum), visual disturbances (occipital lobe, pituitary gland, pineal gland).
What Are The Causes Of Brain Cancer?
As with many types of malignancy, causes of brain cancer are not yet well defined. Environmental factors, as well as genetics, play a role, as in most cancers. Genetics cause less than ten percent of brain cancers.
More studies need to be done to identify specific risk factors for brain cancer. The most commonly proven risk factor is ionising radiation. X-rays, UV light, infrared light, and visible light are all sources of ionising radiation.
Cellphone radiation, smoking, and microwave radiation all need further studies to link its direct causation to brain cancer.
What Are The Things One Should Do To Manage Brain Cancer?
- Make sure you understand your diagnosis well. There are many different types of brain cancers, with different outcomes and prognostic factors. Make sure to discuss them well with your doctors so that you and your family are prepared for what lies ahead
- Maintain a healthy, balanced life as much as possible. Exercise in moderation and follow a diet to optimise nutrition.
- Find a support group, and surround yourself with social support such as family or friends
What Are The Things One Should Avoid To Manage Brain Cancer?
Do not delay seeking medical help if you have any undiagnosed weakness, loss of sensation, headaches or visual disturbances, especially new onset symptoms.
What Are The Best Foods For Brain Cancer?
Although there are no specific foods linked to brain cancer, there are general rules that apply to all malignancy:
- A diet that is high in anti-inflammatory foods and antioxidants helps prevent and fight cancer. Oxidative stress is a natural by-product of the body's energy metabolism but has directly been linked to malignancy. Stressors and toxins also increase the number of free radicals produced by the body. Antioxidants help to scavenge these free radicals before they cause damage to cells.
- Berries are natural super foods- high in antioxidants.These include strawberries, blueberries and raspberries
- The fresher, the better. Fresh and raw fruits and vegetables are high in nutrients that lower inflammation
- Green leafy vegetables are high in anti-oxidants, and also assist your body in detoxification
- Unrefined oils and unsaturated fatty acids found in coconut oil, almonds, avocados and olive oil
What Are The Worst Foods For Brain Cancer?
These are foods to avoid that have been shown to have pre-malignant potential or to be carcinogenic (cancer forming) in all types of cancer. These include:
- Barbequing or grilling meat till it is charred releases a substance that is directly linked to cancer (carcinogenic)
- Processed and refined foods and carbohydrates
- Artificial or processed/ cured meats
- Excessive intake of foods high in unsaturated fatty acids
What Are The Medicines For Brain Cancer?
Treatment of brain cancer depends on the type of brain cancer and the prognosis. Every kind of brain cancer has its own prognosis.
Three treatment modalities are used in brain cancer- surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy.
Surgical treatment depends on the type and location of the brain tumour. It is associated with the best outcomes. If at all possible, the tumour should be surgically removed. Sometimes location or type makes it impossible to remove the malignant mass. At times only partial removal is possible- called “debulking of the tumour mass."
Radiotherapy is when specific beams of energy are focused on the brain tumour, in an attempt to cause cell lysis (breakdown) of the mass, without damaging any of the normal surrounding neural tissues. External beam radiation is used. This is a known- invasive procedure, as the radiation source is applied from outside the cranium. Radiotherapy may be used in conjunction with surgery.
Chemotherapy is sometimes used in specific cancers but is not that common. Chemotherapy uses intravenous chemicals to kill malignant cells. The brain is protected from toxins in the bloodstream by a specific barrier, called the blood-brain-barrier (BBB). Under normal circumstances, only certain substances and pharmaceutical agents can cross the BBB. This barrier may thus limit chemotherapy's effectiveness. In paediatrics, radiotherapy can affect the developing brain, so chemotherapy may sometimes be used first-line.
What Are The Tips To Manage Brain Cancer?