Brain tumors are tumors that grow in the brain. A tumor is an abnormal mass of tissue caused by cells that reproduce themselves in an uncontrolled manner. With cancer and other tumors, new cells are made even though they are not needed and old cells do not die, causing the mass of tissue that is the tumor to grow.
Brain tumors have a variety of symptoms ranging from headache to stroke depending on the type and location of the tumor. Since different areas of the brain control different functions of the body, symptoms vary depending on where the tumor is located. Symptoms also vary according to the size and rate of growth of the tumor. Symptoms may be caused by other problems, so it is important to check with a doctor. Early detection and treatment may increase survival.
Headaches are a common initial symptom of a brain tumor, but most people with even severe or persistent headaches do not have brain tumors. Brain tumor headaches may be steady and more worse in the morning than the afternoon, and possibly be associated with nausea or vomiting, or accompanied by double vision, weakness, or numbness. A brain tumor headache will typically not respond well to normal headache remedies.
Other common brain tumor symptoms include:
- Balance problems or problems walking
- Changes in behaviour, speech, hearing, or vision
- Confusion, disorientation, or inability to concentrate
- Gradual loss of movement or sensation in an arm or leg
- Infertility or abnormal cessation of menstruation (amnorrhea)
- Memory problems or loss
- Nausea or vomiting that is most severe in the morning
- Numbness or tingling in the arms or legs
- Personality changes
- Weakness in one part of the body
Tests for brain tumors may include:
- Neurologic exam - A doctor checks things such as vision, hearing, alertness, strength, coordination, and reflexes.
- MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) - Detailed pictures of the head are taken using strong magnetic fields to capture images. A special dye may be injected to help show abnormal areas. In an open MRI, patients are not enclosed and there is concern by some doctors with the quality of the images as opposed to a closed MRI. Patients should inform doctors if they have metal implanted in their body, a pacemaker, cardiac monitor, surgical clip, or facial tattoo, as these may be affected by the magnetic fields.
- CT or CAT scan (Computed Tomography) - Detailed x-rays of the head are taken, possibly with an injection of material that makes abnormal areas easier to see. CT scans involve exposure to ionizing radiation which is known to cause cancer.
- PET Scan (Positron Emission Tomography) - Provides a picture of brain activity as opposed to structure.
- Angiogram - Dye injected into the bloodstream makes the brain show up on an x-ray, which may show a tumor or blood vessels feeding a tumor.
- Spinal tap - Spinal fluid is removed from the lower part of the spinal column and tested for cancer cells or other problems.
- Biopsy - Removal of tissue to look for tumor cells. A biopsy is the only way to diagnose a brain tumor, determine it's grade level, and start a treatment plan.
- Note that any agents or materials injected may cause allergic reactions in some patients including rashes, warm sensations, or more rarely, difficulty breathing.
Once a tumor has been found, surgery is the first option to remove it. If the tumor can not be operated upon, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are options for killing and shrinking the tumor. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may also be used after surgery to kill any remaining cancerous cells.
Failures of tests to deliver accurate results, or failure of medical staff to perform tests correctly or interpret results could lead to a missed or delayed diagnosis and delayed treatment and be grounds for medical negligence. If you or a loved one has experienced loss or suffering as a result of diagnosis or treatment related to a brain tumor, you may have grounds for a legal claim. Contact the lawyers at Sweeney Law Firm for help in determining your rights. There is never a fee unless a recovery is made for you.