- Malignant Brain Tumors
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Malignant Brain Tumors
Brain tumors are masses of abnormal tissue that grow amidst normal brain tissues. Although about a quarter of primary brain tumors are benign, most brain tumors are malignant, consisting of cancer cells that grow out of control, infiltrating and destroying normal cells.
There are more than 120 types of primary brain tumors – abnormalities that originate within the brain, as opposed to metastatic brain cancer that develops somewhere else in the body and spreads to the brain. Primary brain tumors are described by the types of cells in which they originate, the locations in which they develop and their grades, or severity. The symptoms they produce will depend on their location.
The most common form of malignant primary brain tumors are gliomas, named for the glia cells in which they arise. The glia, supporting cells that help the brain’s neurons to function, are subdivided into the star-shaped astrocytes, ependymal cells and oligodendrocytes, which make myelin, the insulation for the brain’s “wiring.” Overall, gliomas account for about 78 percent of all malignant brain tumors.
The most invasive form of glioma is the glioblastoma multiform (GBM), which is composed of several types of cells, often astrocytes and oligodendrocytes. GBMs tend to grow and spread rapidly. They tend to be more common in men than in women, and in people between ages 50 and 70.
As with other types of brain tumors, common symptoms may include headaches, dizziness, seizures, weakness in the extremities or problems with cognitive and motor skills.
The diagnostic process begins with examination by a physician, who will order an MRI or CT scan to obtain images to detect and define the presence and location of the tumors. Your physician will discuss the findings with a neurosurgeon and other specialists.
Generally, the first choice of treatment is surgery. Advanced MRI scans will likely be ordered to precisely create a “map” of your brain to guide your neurosurgeon in his approach to the tumor during Image-Guided Cranial Surgery that ensures precise and accurate procedures.
Depending on the type and location of the tumor, surgery can range from a tumor biopsy to a procedure aimed at removing as much malignant tissue as possible. Reflecting the complexity of the human brain and its 10 billion brain cells, gliomas can be treated but not cured.
The standard of care for malignant brain tumors is surgery followed by radiation therapy and chemotherapy, unless there are other extenuating circumstances.
For More Information:
American Brain Tumor Association
American Association of Neurological Surgeons
National Brain Tumor Society
National Cancer Institute
U.S. National Library of Medicine