A brain tumor, known as an intracranial tumor, is an abnormal mass of tissue in which cells grow and multiply uncontrollably, seemingly unchecked by the mechanisms that control normal cells.
In most cases, the development of a brain tumor is a spontaneous event without any cause. In a small proportion of patients, there may be a familial predisposition to developing a brain tumor. Patients with previous or coexisting cancer elsewhere in the body (lung, breast, or colon) can spread to the brain.
More than 150 different brain tumors have been documented, but the two main groups of brain tumors are termed primary and metastatic. Symptoms of a brain tumor include:
- Fatigue, weakness, or paralysis
- Changes in personality
- Memory loss
- Changes in vision
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Ringing in the ears
Meningiomas are the most common benign brain tumor. These tumors can grow slowly until they are very large if left undiscovered, and, in some locations, can be severely disabling and life-threatening. Other forms of meningioma may be more aggressive. Most patients develop a single meningioma; however, some patients may develop several tumors growing simultaneously in other locations of the brain or spinal cord.
Learn more about Meningiomas.
A pituitary tumor is an abnormal growth within the pituitary gland which is located within the base of the brain. The pituitary gland is responsible for hormone regulation within the body. Patients with a pituitary tumor often manifest symptoms related to abnormal levels of hormones within the body such as loss of body hair, sexual dysfunction, weight gain or loss, and menstrual irregularities. Generally, pituitary tumors are benign growths and do not spread to other parts of the body.
Learn more about pituitary tumors.
A skull base tumor is an abnormal growth of tissue that develops at the floor of the skull (bones that make up the head). The base of the skull consists of the area behind the eyes and nose as well as the floor of the skull. Tumors that develop within this location of the head are often referred to as skull base tumors. These abnormal growths can be either benign or malignant.
Several imaging studies are required to confirm the diagnosis of a brain tumor and to identify the location and size of the tumor. This would likely include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed topography (CT) scans. A biopsy of the lesion may be necessary to identify the etiology.
Choice of treatment for a brain tumor depends on several factors including the size and location of the tumor, overall health of the patient, and etiology of the tumor.
For most tumors that arise within the brain, some form of surgical treatment is eventually required. This may include biopsy, tumor removal, or stereotactic radiosurgery (such as gamma knife or conventional radiation treatment).
For tumors that have arisen elsewhere in the body and have spread to the brain, a team of medical specialists including a neurosurgeon and oncologist will be involved in the treatment plan.