World Brain Tumour Day is observed on 8 June with the aim to raise awareness and educate people about brain tumour, and also to pay tribute to brain tumour patients and their families.
It was designated by Leipzig-based non-profit organisation German Brain Tumour Association in the year 2000.
A brain tumour, like any other tumour in the body, occurs when cells grow at an abnormal rate to form a mass of abnormal cells. These tumours grow over a varying period of time depending upon whether they are benign or malignant (cancer) in nature.
The brain is enclosed in the skull, so when excess tumour cells start growing in the brain, the pressure within the closed space of the skull increases and gives rise to symptoms.
Brain tumours are classified into benign or malignant depending upon the growth characteristics of cells. Benign tumours are nearly completely curable and grow at a very slow rate whereas malignant tumours grow at a much faster rate. Complete removal of malignant tumours is difficult.
Malignant tumours are classified into various grades depending upon the invasiveness of the tumour and its potential to multiply. Grade I tumours are slow-growing and usually, their behaviour is like benign tumours. Grad IV is the highest grade (highly malignant) and behaves very aggressively.
Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to cure a grade IV malignant tumour. Malignant tumours of the brain rarely spread to other parts of the body, except on occasion to the spine and spinal cord. A brain tumour can become life-threatening if not diagnosed in time.
Symptoms of a brain tumour
Symptoms of brain tumour vary depending on the type of tumour and its location. The most common signs and symptoms are as follows:
- Recurrent headaches, often with vomiting at a later stage of the disease
- Seizures (fits)
- Problem in vision, hearing, smell, taste
- Paralysis of body parts
- Memory loss or recent behavioural changes
- Imbalance while walking
Diagnosis and treatment of brain tumours
With the advent of CT scan and MRI, diagnosis of brain tumours has become easy, accurate and non-invasive. Imaging like MR spectroscopy, SPECT, PET and cerebral blood flow studies give additional information about the nature of these tumours even before heading for surgery for biopsy or removal of these tumours.
If the tumour is diagnosed in the early stages and you begin with the treatment immediately, then there are chances to fight brain tumours with success.
Benign tumours can most often be removed completely. In certain circumstances, if some part of a benign tumour is left behind to preserve important nerves, second stage therapy in the form of gamma knife or cyberknife for the residual tumour could cure the disease.
In malignant tumours, a complete approach to the tumour is three-fold – surgery and radiotherapy with or without chemotherapy depending upon the stage of cancer. With advanced radiotherapy machines, this modality is very well tolerated and has very few side effects.
However, treatment of brain tumour requires patience and cooperation with the patient. Strong emotional support of family members and friends is required for such patients as any type of mental pressure or stress can lead to more complications.
Therefore, such patients need support in maintaining a positive attitude for healing.