Brain tumours can be dangerous, but the more you know about them, the better you’ll be to fight back against this life-threatening condition. Being informed and proactive gives you a better chance of living longer and overcoming your brain tumour. Here are the seven facts that you need to know:
- It’s the Second Most Common Cancer in Children
According to American Brain Tumor Association, more than 9,000 children and adolescents will be diagnosed yearly with a brain tumour. That’s ten children every day in America. The most common type of pediatric cancer is acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). This year alone, almost 2,200 kids under age 15 will be diagnosed with ALL. Medulloblastoma is second on the list – a malignant tumour that occurs in mid-brain tissue and affects only younger kids ages 3–10.
- More than Half Are Diagnosed after the Age of 25
Although brain tumours can occur at any age, more than half of all tumours are diagnosed in people ages 25-55. Although brain tumours can occur at any age, more than half of all tumours are diagnosed in people ages 25-55. It’s also one of the most common cancers among children: In fact, it’s estimated that nearly 2,000 children and adolescents under 20 years old will be diagnosed with a primary brain tumour each year.
- Around 10% Are Fatal
Every year, more than 200,000 people are diagnosed with a brain tumour. Although that’s not very common in percentages (roughly 1 out of every 100), it still means a significant number of people yearly. The worst part is that around 10% of these tumours will prove fatal. This can be caused by either aggressive tumours or if they arise in parts of your brain essential for basic bodily functions like breathing or heart rate regulation.
- Most Tumors Are Benign
In more than 80 per cent of cases, brain tumours are benign. Of these, 50 percent are primarily composed of noncancerous cells called glial cells. 20 percent consists of astrocytes, which support neuron function and survive when neurons die. 20 percent comprises oligodendrocytes, cells that help produce myelin and support communication between neurons. 10 per cent contains ependymal cells, which line parts of the brain’s ventricles.
- People with Neurofibromatosis (NF) Have an Increased Risk
People with NF have an increased risk of developing brain tumours; they are also more likely to develop more aggressive forms of brain cancer. These tumours are often asymptomatic: Neurofibromatosis leads to many neurological symptoms in affected people. Still, these don’t tend to relate directly to actual brain tumours.
- There Is a Strong Link between Radiation and Brain Tumors, but There Are Other Causes Too
Scientists think radiation is a likely cause of brain tumours. Since 1975, research has shown that people who received high doses of radiation treatment are at greater risk of developing these tumours. However, there are other causes too. Some viruses and genetic disorders can also increase your risk of getting one of these growths in your head. Plus, some medications may increase your chances as well. The bottom line: Don’t panic if you get a CT scan or other imaging study—but do talk with your doctor about whether you should be concerned about the long-term effects of radiation exposure.
- Symptoms Vary Depending on the Location of the Tumor.
Brain tumour symptoms vary depending on where a tumour is located. A benign tumour, for example, may cause no symptoms whatsoever. If you notice anything unusual about your body, see your doctor so they can confirm whether it’s a tumour and what type it might be. Once you know what kind of tumour you have, your treatment plan will depend on that diagnosis. For instance, if you have an inoperable brain tumour but are otherwise healthy, doctors will likely treat it with radiation therapy and chemotherapy drugs. If surgery is an option—if doctors can remove part of a malignant brain tumour—the surgery will likely be one of your first treatments. Even after surgery, though, patients typically need radiation therapy to prevent the recurrence of cancer cells left behind by surgeons during surgery.
The Bottom Line
More than 120 types of brain tumours can appear anywhere in the brain and spine, as well as in the meninges (the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord). Types of primary brain tumours include gliomas, meningiomas, pituitary adenomas, craniopharyngiomas, and metastatic tumours that begin in other areas of the body. Understanding these facts about brain tumours will help you and your loved ones know what to expect if you ever receive a diagnosis. Even if you notice slight brain tumour symptoms, consult a neurologist as soon as possible.