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Brain Cancer and Ways to Prevent It

Cancer Prevention

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Learning that you have a brain tumor may be the most difficult thing that you’ll ever have to deal with. You must not lose heart as there’s effective brain cancer treatment, but you need to ensure that you receive the best treatment and support as soon as possible.

What is Brain Cancer?

Brain cancers include primary brain tumors and secondary tumors. While the former (primary brain tumor) starts in the brain and almost never spreads to other parts of the body, the latter (secondary tumors) is caused by cancers that began in another part of the body.

What is Brain Tumor?

A brain tumor occurs when a mass of abnormal cells or tumors form within the brain. There are two brain tumor types – malignant or cancerous tumors and benign tumors. Cancerous tumors cause cancer and can be divided into primary tumors that start inside the brain tissue, and secondary tumors that have spread from some other part of the body, known as brain metastasis tumors.

There are two general types of brain tumor –

  1. Primary brain tumor – These tumors start in brain tissue and tend to stay there.
  2. Secondary brain tumor– These tumors are the more common ones. These cancers begin somewhere else in the body and then move to the brain. The common cancers that can spread to the brain include lung, breast, kidney, colon, and skin cancers.

Malignant or cancerous tumors can grow and spread rapidly, affecting the healthy cells in the brain by eating up their space, blood, and nutrients. The tumors can also spread to other parts of the body. On the other hand, benign tumors do not invade nearby tissue or spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor is obviously less serious than a malignant one, but a benign tumor can still cause problems in the brain by putting pressure on the nearby tissue.

Types of Brain Cancer

Brain tumors are abnormal growths cell growths in the brain. Although, these abnormal growths are called brain tumors, but not all tumors are cancerous. Malignant tumors cause brain cancer.

The most common types of brain cancer are: –

  • Astrocytomas – This cancer usually arises in the largest part of the brain, the cerebrum. The cancer can be of any grade and can cause seizures or changes in behavior.
  • Meningiomas – It is the most common type of primary brain tumors in adults that affects the meninges, and it usually occurs in old age around 70s or 80s. They can be grade 1, 2, or 3 and are usually benign and show slower growth.
  • Oligodendrogliomas – This cancer arises in the cells that make the covering that protects nerves. Usually grade 1, 2, or 3, these tumors grow slowly and don’t spread to nearby tissue.

Symptoms of Brain Cancer

One thing to understand here is that not all brain tumors cause symptoms, and these tumors can often go undetected unless a CT scan or MRI is done for another reason. There are a range of symptoms of brain cancer which are not specific to brain tumors; that means that they can be caused by other illnesses as well. Hence, the only way to be sure that what is causing the symptoms is to undergo diagnostic testing.

Brain cancer can have a range of symptoms including seizures, sleepiness, confusion, and behavioral changes. But again, all tumors, whether cancerous or benign, cause similar symptoms, so a complete diagnosis is necessary to arrive at a decision.

The most common symptoms are as follows

  • Headache
  • Clumsiness
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty in walking
  • Seizures

A few less common or nonspecific symptoms and signs are –

  • Modifications in mental state – alterations in concentration, memory, attention, or alertness
  • Vision abnormalities
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty in speech

These symptoms can be caused due to a tumor putting pressure on adjoining tissues, or encroaching on other parts of the brain, or in inflammation in the surrounding tissues.

Causes of Brain Cancer

With tumors arising in other parts of the body, the exact cause of most brain cancers is still unknown. There are factors that have been known to be the possible risk factors for primary brain tumors, but whether these factors increase the risk of a brain tumor or are the primary cause of it, is not known.
Here are the factors that may cause brain cancer –

  • Genetic or hereditary factors
  • Radiation to the head
  • HIV infection
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Environmental toxins

Brain Cancer Treatment

Treatment for brain cancer depends on the type, size and location of the brain tumor, and also upon the overall health of the patient.
Brain tumor treatment can be done in the following ways –

  • Radiation therapy – Radiation therapy uses X-rays or protons to kill the tumor cells.
  • Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is administered orally in the form of a pill, or injected into a vein (intravenously).
  • Targeted drug therapy – Targeted drug treatments target the specific abnormalities present within cancer cells to kill the cells.
  • Radiosurgery – Radiosurgery radiation beams are focused on tumor cells in a very small area.
  • Surgery – If the brain tumor is accessible, it may be removed through operation.

Ways to Prevent Brain Cancer

You can take possible steps for brain cancer prevention. Certain lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, staying at a healthy weight, etc. can be helpful in brain tumor prevention.

Here are some ways to prevent brain cancer –

Avoid exposure to causal agents
There are certain agents that are known to cause brain cancer. These include radiation exposure to the head, using chemical oriented substances like hair dyes, pesticides and other chemical products.

Sleep well
Receiving adequate amounts of sleep daily is critical to the health of the brain.

Limit alcohol consumption and quit smoking
Excessive drinking and smoking can increase the risk of developing brain cancer. Hence, if you are a smoker, you must quit it right away as besides brain cancer, smoking can lead to many critical illnesses. And if you consume alcohol, try to limit your alcohol consumption.

Eat a healthy diet
Eat a nutritious diet to help your body stay fit and your immune system strong. Include foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids such as fish and lean meats, vegetables and fruits that are high in antioxidants such as broccoli, beans, spinach, apples, oranges and pineapples, in your diet.

Visit your doctor regularly
Regular health checkups are very important, especially if there are abnormal signs or symptoms.

Brain cancer is life threatening, but taking proper steps at the right time can help in brain cancer prevention and can reduce your chances of developing the disease.

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