What is Brain Cancer and how is it treated?

Benign or malignant?

A brain tumour can be either cancerous or non-cancerous depending upon whether the tumour is growing and spreading aggressively. If the tumour is not aggressive then it will be termed ‘benign’ and generally speaking a benign tumour is less serious, but treatment may still be required.

If the tumour is growing and producing abnormal cells, which spread and take over the space of healthy cells then it will be termed ‘malignant’ or ‘cancerous’. Cancerous brain tumours can originate either directly from the brain (known as Primary Tumours) or they can develop from a cancerous tumour elsewhere in the body and spread to the brain (known as Secondary Tumours).

Where is the tumour in the brain?

They can grow anywhere in the brain and therefore you can experience different symptoms depending upon which area of the brain the tumour is situated.

The brain is divided into three main structures:

  • The Cerebrum (front)
  • The Cerebellum (back)
  • The Brain Stem (bottom)

Each part of the brain is responsible for different bodily functions.

The Cerebrum is divided into two halves (the right and left cerebral hemispheres). These are responsible for a person’s memory, emotions, senses, speech and thinking. Opposite sides of the cerebral hemispheres control opposite sides of the body so that the left cerebral hemisphere controls the right hand side of the body and vice versa. Each hemisphere is then sub-divided into 4 areas each one being responsible for controlling different aspects, such as personality, sight, sense of smell and speech. A brain tumour in this part of the brain can cause difficulties with speech, vision, hearing and behaviour.

The Cerebellum is at the back of the brain and is largely responsible for a person’s balance and co-ordination. Ordinarily these functions occur spontaneously without thinking but a tumour in this part of the brain can make simple tasks that are taken for granted such as walking extremely difficult.

The Brain stem is at the bottom of the brain and is responsible for controlling basic things such as our breathing, heartbeat, blood pressure and eye movement. It connects the cerebrum and cerebellum to the spinal cord.

Adult and Child Cancers

Statistically where adults are concerned most brain tumours grow in the cerebrum whereas in children they are more likely to occur in the cerebellum or brain stem. In adults it is also more common for a brain tumour to be secondary rather than primary whereas in children it is the reverse. It is important to remember that brain tumours(brain cancer) remain a rarity with approximately 4,500 people diagnosed in the UK each year.

What are the symtpoms?

Some of the most common symptoms of a brain tumour can be; headaches, sickness and drowsiness but these symptoms are very common in lots of other illnesses therefore the chance of it being because of a brain tumour is small. Nevertheless if you are worried or concerned you should seek medical guidance. Other specific symptoms for a brain tumour can be problems with your sight including blurred vision, tunnel vision and floating shapes and/or fitting. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and you are concerned, you should speak to your doctor who will refer you to a specialist if necessary for further tests ad investigations; which may include CT and MRI scanning and/or a biopsy.

And what is the treatment?

If a brain tumour is diagnosed various treatment options will be discussed with you. For primary tumours, surgery is usually considered as a first option provided the tumour is not positioned at the skull base. For secondary tumours again surgery will usually be considered first together with radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy.

Head Injury UK: Brain Injury Experts

If you believe you have been the victim of a medical error or negligence in relation to the diagnosis of or treatment of a brain tumour it may be possible to make a claim. Compensation will not resolve the medical issues, but it may ease the financial burden by providing the money to pay for necessary care, therapy, and equipment.  Contact Clare Langford if you would like to discuss how we can help you.

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