What Tests Do Doctors Use To Diagnose Brain Cancer
The initial test is an interview that includes a medical history and physical examination of the person by a health care provider. The results of this interaction will determine if other specific tests need to be done.
The most frequently used test to detect brain cancer is a CT scan . This test resembles a series of X-rays and is not painful, although sometimes a dye needs to be injected into a vein for better images of some internal brain structures. Another test that is gaining popularity because of its high sensitivity for detecting anatomic changes in the brain is MRI . This test also shows the brain structures in detail better than CT. If the tests show evidence of brain cancer, then other doctors such as neurosurgeons and neurologists that specialize in treating brain ailments will be consulted to help determine what should be done to treat the patient. Occasionally, a tissue sample may be obtained by surgery or insertion of a needle to help determine the diagnosis. Other tests may be ordered by the health care practitioner to help determine the patient’s state of health or to detect other health problems. These tests help differentiate between cancerous and non-cancerous conditions in the brain that may produce similar symptoms .
Gene Changes Acquired During A Person’s Lifetime
It’s usually not known why people without inherited syndromes develop brain or spinal cord tumors. Most exposures that cause cancer, such as chemicals in tobacco smoke, somehow damage DNA. But the brain is relatively protected from most cancer-causing chemicals that we might breathe in or eat, so these factors are not likely to play a major role in these cancers.
Several different gene changes usually occur in normal cells before they become cancerous. There are many kinds of brain tumors, each of which may have different sets of gene changes. A number of gene changes have been found in different brain tumor types, but there are probably many others that have not yet been found.
Researchers now understand some of the gene changes that occur in different types of brain tumors, but its still not clear what causes most of these changes. Some gene changes might be inherited, but most brain and spinal cord tumors are not the result of known inherited syndromes. Other than radiation, no known lifestyle-related or environmental factors are clearly linked to brain tumors. Most gene changes are probably just random events that sometimes happen inside a cell, without having an outside cause.
Symptoms Of A Brain Tumour
A brain tumour can cause headaches but it is unusual for this to be the only symptom. Other common symptoms include feeling sick and seizures. Symptoms depend on where the tumour is in the brain and how slowly or quickly it grows. They may develop suddenly, or slowly over months or even years.
Other conditions may cause similar symptoms. But if you have any symptoms, it is important to get them checked by your GP.
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Can Brain Cancer Cause Nosebleeds And Headaches
Brain tumor symptoms depend on tumor size, type, and location. Symptoms may be caused when a tumor presses on a nerve or harms a part of the brain. Also, they may be caused when a tumor blocks the fluid that flows through and around the brain, or when the brain swells because of the buildup of fluid, causing excess pressure on the skull.
Nosebleeds can occur particularly from brain tumors in the sinus area , or from tumors that start at the base of the skull, such as meningioma which is usually benign. Although, even when brain cancer is benign, it still causes damage.
Thus, due to the location, these types of brain cancer are commonly associated with other symptoms, such as vision or hearing issues. So, if you only have a nosebleed, it is unlikely to be a sign of brain cancer.
Will Scan Ease Back Ache Worries
Question: IVE had disc problems in my back for many years. This time its really bad, with back pain and sciatica down my leg. Im worried its serious should I ask for a scan?
Jeanette, by email
Answer: Its certainly worth discussing it with your GP. Most bad backs dont need scans. Thats because the symptoms usually get better on their own, and scans dont give much useful information.
There are two exceptions. One is if the back pain might be caused by something serious like cancer.
This is rare. Clues include severe pain getting worse over weeks or months with no let-up and no improvement with painkillers. The pain may repeatedly wake you at night and you might also be generally unwell losing weight, say.
The other exception is if your doc suspects a slipped disc. This disc can press on a nerve typically the sciatic nerve causing pain down your leg.
Most of these improve given time. But if it goes on for months, a scan is a good idea because you might need an op.
The scan will help confirm the diagnosis and pinpoint for the surgeon exactly where the problem is.
Question: I HAVE long-term varicose veins from my knee down to my foot. Over the last few months,
Ive noticed a brown pigment on the front of my shin. Ive tried various creams but nothing gets rid of it.
Mick, by email
pigment in your skin. Unfortunately, this staining is permanent.
Question: With every meal, I have a problem with food sticking. What should I do about this?
Fred, by email
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What Are The Stages Of Brain Cancer
Brain cancers are staged according to their cell type and grade because they seldom spread to other organs, while other cancers, such as breast or lung cancer, are staged according to so-called TMN staging which is based on the location and spread of cancer cells. In general, these cancer stages range from 0 to 4 with stage 4 indicating the cancer has spread to another organ .
Less Need For Food And Drink
When someone is dying, their bodys metabolism will slow down. This means theyre less able to digest food and take the goodness from it. As a result, their appetite may reduce and they may start to lose weight.
The effort of eating may become too much. This may be either because the person is less able to control and co-ordinate their muscles causing difficulty swallowing. Or it could be simply because the person is physically exhausted. Some people may feel, or be, sick.
It can be difficult to see your loved one this way and many peoples instinct is to care for them by making sure they eat, perhaps offering them tempting meals that are their favourite.
People worry that their loved one will starve if they dont eat.
However, because the body is shutting down, they dont need so much food. Changes in the body of people with advanced illness are different to the changes in healthy people who are forced to go without food. People who are dying often start to lose weight even while their appetite is still fairly normal, as their body cant make use of the food.
As with food, the effort of drinking may become too much, often due to difficulty with swallowing. In addition, because the body is shutting down, it doesnt need so much water.
Many people are also catheterised when theyre at the end of life. This means a tube is inserted into their bladder to drain their urine into a bag. As a result, they urinate less, so need less fluid.
What about medications?
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What Is Chemotherapy Treatment For Brain Tumors
Chemotherapy, the use of drugs to kill cancer cells, is sometimes used to treat brain tumors. Drugs may be given in the following ways:
- : Chemotherapy may be given during and after radiation therapy. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body. They may be given in an outpatient part of the hospital, at the doctor’s office, or at home. Rarely, you may need to stay in the hospital. The side effects of chemotherapy depend mainly on which drugs are given and how much. Common side effects include nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, headache, fever and chills, and weakness. If the drugs lower the levels of healthy blood cells, you’re more likely to get infections, bruise or bleed easily, and feel very weak and tired. Your health care team will check for low levels of blood cells. Some side effects may be relieved with medicine.
- In wafers that are put into the brain: For some adults with high-grade glioma, the surgeon implants several wafers into the brain. Each wafer is about the size of a dime. Over several weeks, the wafers dissolve, releasing the drug into the brain. The drug kills cancer cells. It may help prevent the tumor from returning in the brain after surgery to remove the tumor. People who receive an implant that contains a drug are monitored by the health care team for signs of infection after surgery. An infection can be treated with an antibiotic.
Questions to ask your doctor before starting chemotherapy treatment for a brain tumor
Brain Tumor Symptoms In Children: When To See A Doctor
Many of these symptoms can be caused by routine health conditions, and thats most often the case. If youre concerned about one or more of these symptoms in your child, seek out the medical opinion of a health professional you trust. Often, an MRI scan can determine whether a brain abnormality is causing the symptoms.
If your child does have a brain tumor, advanced pediatric neurosurgery can offer effective treatment and a successful recovery for the majority of young patients who have this rare condition.
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Early Warning Signs And Symptoms Of A Brain Lesion
Symptoms of a brain lesion depend upon what part of the brain is affected. Large parts of the brain can be involved in some diseases and there may be relatively few symptoms. Alternatively, very tiny lesions may be catastrophic if they occur in a critical part of the brain.
Initial signs and symptoms of a brain lesion are often non-specific and may include:
What Is Metastatic Cancer
In metastasis, cancer cells break away from where they first formed , travel through the blood or lymph system, and form new tumors in other parts of the body. The metastatic tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor.
Cancer that spreads from where it started to a distant part of the body is called metastatic cancer. For many types of cancer, it is also called stage IV cancer. The process by which cancer cells spread to other parts of the body is called metastasis.
When observed under a microscope and tested in other ways, metastatic cancer cells have features like that of the primary cancer and not like the cells in the place where the metastatic cancer is found. This is how doctors can tell that it is cancer that has spread from another part of the body.
Metastatic cancer has the same name as the primary cancer. For example, breast cancer that spreads to the lung is called metastatic breast cancer, not lung cancer. It is treated as stage IV breast cancer, not as lung cancer.
Sometimes when people are diagnosed with metastatic cancer, doctors cannot tell where it started. This type of cancer is called cancer of unknown primary origin, or CUP. See the Carcinoma of Unknown Primary page for more information.
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What To Know About Benign Tumors
The most common types of benign brain tumors are:
- Meningiomas: Meningiomas are common and originate in the central nervous system, which contains the brain and spinal cord. Though benign, they create serious symptoms, including headaches, speech problems and seizures, and they can even become fatal if untreated.
- Acoustic neuromas: Acoustic neuromas develop on the nerves that lead from the ear to the brain and can interfere with balance and normal facial muscle movement.
- Pituitary: Pituitary tumors form on the vital pituitary gland and disrupt the hormones responsible for essential bodily functions.
What Are The Other Symptoms Of A Brain Tumour
Other common symptoms, which may initially come and go, include one or more of the following:
- Continuing nausea, vomiting
- Tinnitus or hearing loss
- Unexplained twitches of the face or limbs
- Appearing to be lost in a deep daydream for a short while
- Numbness or weakness in the arms or legs, especially if progressive and leading to paralysis
- Numbness or weakness in a part of the face, so that the muscles drop slightly
- Numbness or weakness on one side of the body, resulting in stumbling or lack of co-ordination
- Changes in personality or behaviour
- Impaired memory or mental ability, which may be very subtle to begin with
- Changes in senses, including smell
- Problems with speech, writing or drawing
- Loss of concentration or difficulty in concentrating
- Changes in sleep patterns
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Signs To Watch Out For
With more than 120 types of brain tumors, symptoms run the gamut from none at all to major red flags. Ultimately, how your body sounds the alarm depends on:
- Where the tumor forms.
- What part of the body the affected areaof the brain controls.
- How big the tumor is.
But to know when a symptom really spells trouble, you needto know your own body. Changes in your health can be just as telling as thesymptom itself.
If you experience one or several of these signs, Dr. Ahluwaliarecommends seeing a medical professional:
Early Warning Signs Of Brain Cancer
Brain cancer symptoms vary depending on the type, extent and location of the tumor, as well as the patients age and healthy history, and often mimic those caused by other medical conditions, so its important to consult a medical professional for an accurate diagnosis.
Early signs of brain cancer may include:
- A headache that changes depending on the time of day and position of the head and gets worse over time
Common symptoms of brain cancer may also include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Overproduction or underproduction of breast milk
- Cushings syndrome
- High blood pressure
Some patients may not feel right cognitively, or have visual, speech or coordination problems. The symptoms may be subtle or develop gradually.
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Should You Ask For A Second Opinion Before You Start Treatment For A Brain Tumor
Before starting treatment, you might want a second opinion about your diagnosis and treatment plan. Some people worry that the doctor will be offended if they ask for a second opinion. Usually the opposite is true. Most doctors welcome a second opinion. And many health insurance companies will pay for a second opinion if you or your doctor requests it. Some companies require a second opinion.
If you get a second opinion, the doctor may agree with your first doctor’s diagnosis and treatment plan. Or the second doctor may suggest another approach. Either way, you’ll have more information and perhaps a greater sense of control. You can feel more confident about the decisions you make, knowing that you’ve looked at your options.
It may take some time and effort to gather your medical records and see another doctor. In many cases, it’s not a problem to take several weeks to get a second opinion. The delay in starting treatment usually won’t make treatment less effective. To make sure, you should discuss this delay with your doctor. Some people with a brain tumor need treatment right away.
There are many ways to find a doctor for a second opinion. You can ask your doctor, a local or state medical society, a nearby hospital, or a medical school for names of specialists.
Also, you can request a consultation with specialists at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
After A Diagnosis Of Brain Cancer
After finding out you have brain cancer, you may feel shocked, upset, anxious or confused. These are normal responses. A diagnosis of brain cancer affects each person differently. For most it will be a difficult time, however some people manage to continue with their normal daily activities.
Your specialist will arrange for a range of health professionals to plan your treatment. This will be based on several factors including the type, size, location and genetic make-up of the cancer as well as, your age and general health, the types of symptoms you have and your needs and preferences.
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