A Brain tumor is an abnormal growth within the brain and skull. It can be benign or can be highly malignant, or cancerous. Even benign tumors, however, can be serious or life threatening. they can compress vital areas of the brain or produce elevations of the pressure within the skull. Malignant tumors can arise from cells of the brain, such as astrocytomas, or from cells transported to the brain through the blood stream or lymphatic system. These cells are from cancerous tumors that are growing elsewhere in the body. Once these cells are deposited within the brain, they can rapidly grow.
Causes of Brain Tumor
Tumors in the brain can be primary or secondary, or metastatic. Primary brain tumors can be benign or malignant. The malignant tumors most often arise from cells called astrocytes, and are termed astrocytomas. These tumors are often infiltrative into the brain and difficult to control. Other primary brain tumors are benign. The most common of these tumors are meningiomas, pituitary tumors and acoustic neuromas. Meningiomas arise from the linings of the brain, and can occur anywhere. When they involved the base of the brain, they often grow around important arteries and nerves. They usually grow slowly and can reach enormous size. Occasionally, they can grow through the skull. Pituitary tumors are benign disorders. They arise from the cells that compose the pituitary gland. They may secrete hormones and produce symptoms through this mechanism. As the grow, they may push on the optic nerves which are located directly over them. This pressure leads to varying degrees of loss of vision. In women, pituitary tumors can lead to abnormal menstrual cycles and infertility. Pituitary tumors that lead to elevate levels of steroids of growth hormone lead to Cushing's disease or Acromegaly, respectively. Acoustic neuromas are benign tumors that usually arise from the vestibular nerves. They lead to loss of hearing, ringing in the ears and dizziness and vertigo.
Secondary tumors are those that are spread to the brain from another area. These usually arise from an area of cancer that has spread via the blood stream or the lymphatic system. Tumors that frequently spread to the brain include cancer of the breast, the lung, intestines and malignant melanoma of the skin. Unfortunately, once these tumors have spread to the brain, they have frequently spread to other organs.
Signs and Symptoms of Brain Tumor
Brain tumors usually produce headaches. Frequently, these headaches are new and slowly progressive and may be associated with nausea and vomiting. Lying down may increase the headaches. There may be localized dysfunction of the brain, corresponding to the area in which the tumor is growing. These tumors can produce weakness, sensory loss, visual problems, balance problems and speech problems. Seizures, or convulsion, may develop. Large tumors which affect the frontal lobes of the brain often are associated with changes in behavior and personality. Tumors involving the nerves that come off the brainstem may produce hearing loss, dizziness and vertigo, numbness of the face, facial weakness, double vision, visual loss, loss of smell and taste and difficulty swallowing. There may be poorly coordinated movements and unsteady gait, or difficulty walking.
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Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
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