Brain Tumours - What are they and how are they caused?

The cause of brain tumours is not well understood by the medical profession. There are many different types of brain tumour and the symptoms they cause and the treatment given varies. A brain tumour is sometimes referred to as brain cancer.

Brain tumours can be either primary or secondary. Primary tumours develop from brain cells and can be either benign (they do not spread into other areas of the brain) or malignant (they do spread through the surrounding brain tissue). Secondary brain tumours occur when cancer cells from another part of the body such as the lung spread to the brain. When a cancer cells spreads from another part of the body this is referred to as a metastasize.

A doctor may suspect a brain tumour if a patient presents with, for example, seizures, persistent headaches with sickness, a change in behaviour (mental status) or visual or hearing problems. Sometimes the patient with suffer from photophobia (dislike of bright lights) or neck stiffness. A CT or MRI scan is usually required to confirm the diagnosis. If a brain tumour is suspected the doctor will need to undertake surgery to remove part of the suspect cells for testing. This is known as a biopsy. The cells will then be examined under a microscope to see if they are benign or malignant. If the cells are malignant treatment will be required. Treatment may include surgery to remove the cancerous cells. The surgery will be undertaken by a neurosurgeon who specialise in operating on the brain. Other treatments include radiotherapy or chemotherapy which work by killing the malignant cells. Sometimes medication such as steroids will be prescribed to treat the brain tumour.

If a GP or Consultant fails to diagnose or correctly treat a brain tumour this may give rise to a claim for clinical negligence compensation. There are three main circumstances, which could lead to a clinical negligence claim as a result of a brain tumour:

Firstly there may be a delay in diagnosing the tumour. This could be because the doctor such as a GP has failed to pick up on signs and symptoms, which should have led to further investigations. For a claim to be successful it is necessary to show that the delay has resulted in a worse outcome. Delays are particularly significant in dealing with benign tumours as they are more likely to be curable and often the size of the tumour and the ease with which it can be removed relate directly to how good a recovery can be made.

Secondly once a diagnosis of a brain tumour has been made it is important that the doctors discuss the treatment options with the patient very carefully. In some case surgery may carry a significant risk of leaving the patient with severe disabilities and can cause a benign tumour to become malignant. Other options such as radiotherapy to kill the affected cells or simply monitoring the tumour by regular scanning might be preferable.

Thirdly if surgery is decided upon it may not be undertaken with sufficient care. Brain surgery is very complicated. Complications such as a stroke or damage to other parts of the brain may occur during the operation. If these complications could have been avoided with reasonable care, a claim for compensation may be made.

Head Injury UK

Our experienced brain injury solicitors investigate many cases of medical negligence connected with the diagnosis and treatment of brain tumours.   We support people affected by brain injury and its potentially severe consequences by providing specialist legal advice and medical information.  Please contact Clare Langford for free, confidential and no obligation advice or call on 0800 073 0988.

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