The brain is the main organ that controls our memory, senses, learning ability, concentration, other organs, blood vessels, etc. Thus, it plays an important role in the human body system that controls each and every movement, reaction, and function carried out within the body.
The brain is a soft, spongy mass of tissues that is protected by a hard bone called the skull and three thin membranes known as meninges. The brain is cushioned within the skull by a watery fluid known as cerebrospinal fluid. Ventricles are filled with this fluid, that flows through the spaces between the meninges and within the brain.
What is Adult Brain Tumor?
Adult brain tumor is malignant cell growth within the tissues of the brain. The tumors that develop in the brain are known as brain tumors. There are many types of brain tumors. However, they can be broadly classified into the following two categories:
- Benign or non-cancerous tumors
- Cancerous brain tumors
The tumors that develop within the brain are known as primary brain tumors and the tumors that develop else where in the body and spread to the brain are known as secondary or metastatic brain tumors.
Primary Brain Tumor
The primary brain tumors are classified according to the tissue where they develop. Gliomas are the most common adult brain tumors that develop in the glial or supportive tissue. The types of gliomas are:
- Astrocytomas: These tumors develop in the small, star-shaped cells that are astrocytes. These tumors grow anywhere in the brain or spinal cord. The astrocytomas that occur in adults mostly develop in the cerebrum. Anaplastic astrocytoma is a grade II astrocytoma and glioblastoma multiforme is a grade IV astrocytoma.
- Brain Stem Gliomas: These tumors develop in the lowest, stem-like part of the brain. There are many brain stem gliomas that are high-grade astrocytomas.
- Ependymomas: The tumors developing in the ventricles are known as ependymomas. These tumors may develop in the spinal cord. These tumors are more common in children and adolescents.
- Oligodendrogliomas: These tumors are seen in the cells that produce myelin. Myelin is a fatty substance that protects the nerves by covering them. These tumors are developed in the cerebrum. This is a rare type and does not spread in the surrounding brain tissues.
The other adult brain tumors that do not occur in the glial tissue are:
- Medulloblastomas: These tumors develop in the primitive or developing nerve cells that are not found in the body after birth. Thus, they are also known as primitive neuroectodermal tumors (PNET). These tumors are mostly observed in children than adults.
- Meningiomas: These tumors are seen growing in the meninges that cover the brain and spinal cord. These are mostly benign and grow very slowly. Thus, many times the brain becomes accustomed to their presence. These tumors need to grow very large in size, before they exhibit any symptoms.
- Schwannomas: These tumors develop in the Schwann cells that produces myelin to protect the acoustic nerves. This is a benign tumor that is mostly an adult brain tumor. It is observed more in women than men.
- Craniopharyngiomas: These tumors are seen developing near the hypothalamus in the region of pituitary gland. Although benign, can be termed as malignant as they can damage the hypothalamus, this tumor is mostly seen in children and adolescents.
- Germ Cell Tumors: These tumors occur in germ cells and the most common germ cell tumor is germinoma.
- Pineal Region Tumor: The tumor that develops in and around the pineal gland is known as pineal region tumor. This tumor can be a slow-growing tumor known as pineocytoma or a fast-growing tumor called pineoblastoma. As the pineal gland and pineal region is situated deep within the brain, it mostly cannot be removed.
Secondary brain tumors are cancers that occur in other parts of the body. The cancer that spreads to the brain is called the same name as the original cancer. For example, the bone cancer that spreads to the brain is called metastatic bone cancer. This is because the abnormal cells in the brain do not resemble abnormal brain cells but abnormal lung cells.
There are many symptoms that can indicate this medical condition in adults. Here are the general symptoms:
- Headaches: The most common and early sign is headache. The typical headaches are often worse in the morning and subside during the day. These headaches are so severe that they may arouse a person from sleep. Till the person does not vomit, he/she does not feel better. Coughing, exercises or bending, kneeling, etc., may worsen the pain. The headaches are not cured by the normal treatments for the same.
- Seizures: Seizures is another symptom that helps about 1/3 of the affected people to become aware of the fact that they are affected by brain tumor. The disruption in the normal flow of currents within the brain causes seizures. There may be convulsions, unusual sensations, loss of consciousness, etc. Muscle twitching, jerking of an arm or leg, abnormal smell or taste, problem with speech, numbness, and tingling in the body may also be observed as a symptom.
- Mental Change or Personality Change: These symptoms may vary from memory loss, speech problems, decreased concentration, intellectual problems, and confusion. The location of the tumor may also cause changes in the temperament and behavioral changes.
- Mass Effect: The intracranial pressure or ICP caused by the growing tumor in the tight confines of the skull, may cause mass effect. The brain tumor symptoms in adults due to ICP are nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, and vision problems like blurred or double vision. There may be loss of peripheral vision with headaches and mental changes. Swollen optic nerve or papilledema is a clear symptom that can be observed by an ophthalmologist.
- Localized or Focal Symptoms: The focal symptoms are more specific and help recognize the symptoms in adults. The focal brain tumor symptoms include hearing troubles like ringing or buzzing sounds, hearing loss, decreased muscle control, lack of coordination, decreased sensation, weakness, paralysis, difficulty in walking, speaking, balance problems, and double vision.
- Specific Brain Tumor Symptoms: In case of brain stem gliomas, there may be vomiting after walking, clumsy walking style, muscle weakness on one side of the face, difficulty in swallowing, slurred speech, and loss of hearing or vision. The symptoms of glioblastoma multiforme include headaches, seizures, memory loss, and change in personality.
- Life-Threatening Symptoms: These symptoms in adults need immediate medical treatments like dilation of pupils, fixed gaze, paralysis on one or both sides of the body, and blindness or defective vision on one eye. These are life-threatening symptoms of this medical condition and they should not be taken lightly.
- Other symptoms: Other symptoms may include decerebrate posture, decorticate posture, decreased coordination, sensations, positive Babinski's reflex, absence of menstruation, dysfunctional movement, drooping eyelids, facial paralysis, hiccups, obesity, tongue problems, etc.
The treatment of this medical condition involves brain surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. The treatment depends upon the size, type, and location of the tumor. There are many treatments available today that help cure the tumor, reduce the symptoms, and help in improving the functions of the brain, helping the affected person become comfortable.
These are a few symptoms that may differ from individual to individual. If one is concerned regarding the aforementioned symptoms, he/she should consult the doctor immediately. The symptoms mentioned above may also be due to causes other than adult brain tumor. Thus, it is wise to diagnose it as soon as possible for an early treatment.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.