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Brain Tumor and Brain Cancer—Adult
by Debra Wood, RN
A brain tumor is the presence of cancer cells in the brain.
There are 2 main types of brain tumors:
Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. If cells divide uncontrollably, they form a mass of tissue. The mass is called a growth or tumor. The term cancer usually refers to malignant tumors. These can invade nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor does not spread. But, it can continue to grow and press structures near it, causing symptoms.
The cause of most primary brain tumors is unknown, but it is probably a combination of genetics and environment. Secondary brain tumors are caused by cancer that spreads to the brain from another site in the body.
Risk Factors TOP
Factors that increase your chances of a brain tumor:
Any cancer in the body can spread to the brain. The most common tumors that may spread to the brain include:
Symptoms depend on the tumor's size and location. A growing tumor will often have fluid build-up around it. This is called edema. Edema puts pressure on the brain. Symptoms may develop gradually or rapidly.
Symptoms may include:
You will be asked your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You will have a neurological exam. It will test muscle strength, coordination, reflexes, response to external actions, and alertness. The doctor may also look into your eyes to check for signs of brain swelling.
Images of your bodily structures may need to be taken. This can be done with:
A sample of brain tissue may need to be removed for testing. This can be done with:
There are many different types of brain tumors. The doctor will classify the type. The type of brain tumor is important to determine the treatment approach.
Treatment depends on the type, size, location of the cancer, and your overall health. Treatments may leave you with physical or mental limitations.
Before beginning treatment, you may take medications, including:
Surgical procedures include:
Radiation therapy uses radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. This is a common treatment for brain tumors. Radiation may be:
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. It may be given in many forms, including pill, injection, or through a tube called a catheter. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body killing mostly cancer cells, but also some healthy cells. It may also be delivered directly into the cerebrospinal fluid, which bathes the brain tissue. This form of chemotherapy is called intrathecal. This is most often used when cancer has spread from elsewhere in the body to the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
Rehabilitation Therapy TOP
Rehabilitation therapy includes:
There are no current guidelines to prevent a brain tumor because the cause is unclear.
American Brain Tumor Association
American Cancer Society
Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada
Canadian Cancer Society
Astrocytoma and oligodendroglioma in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated February 10, 2017. Accessed October 9, 2017.
Brain tumors. American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed October 9, 2017.
General information about adult central nervous system tumors. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/brain/patient/adult-brain-treatment-pdq. August 26, 2016. Accessed October 9, 2017.
Last reviewed September 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 9/5/2014
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