Brain tumors arise when a cluster of cells grows and multiplies excessively within the brain. These tumors can be benign, malignant or in an intermediate stage. Benign tumors are noncancerous but still can represent serious, even life-threatening conditions. These benign lesions often can be cured with surgery. Malignant tumors tend to grow faster and have the ability to invade surrounding areas of the brain, and for these reasons they often require additional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy in addition to surgery.
Tumors can develop anywhere in the body but those in the brain have characteristic symptoms. These symptoms will vary depending on the type, the size and the location of tumor. While some tumors will not cause symptoms, others will present with:
- Headache (most common symptom)
- Changes in speech, hearing or vision
- Problems with balance or walking
- Numbness or tingling in the arms or legs
- Changes in the ability to remember things
- Changes in behaviour
- Inability to concentrate
- Weakness in one area of the body
Although headache is one of the most common symptoms with brain tumors, the majority of headaches are not related to tumors. Headaches that are worrisome are those that have recently appeared or are described as different as compared to the usual headache or migraine. They are also constant or are getting worse, always present day or night, and they can be associated with other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, weakness, unsteady gait.
If you experience some of the previously mentioned symptoms, schedule an appointment with a physician. New symptoms or changes in the pattern of known headaches warrant a medical consultation. Brain tumors are rare but when present they should be evaluated rapidly. Not all brain tumors are cancerous, but those that are should be treated as soon as possible to achieve the best outcomes.
What we know about the causes of brain tumours
Brain tumors can develop at any age. Primary brain tumors (those that come from the brain) occur in all age groups but they are commonly seen in children and older adults. Metastatic brain tumors (those that come from a cancer in another part of the body) are more common in adults.
Dr. Dominic Venne states that, “The cause of brain tumors remains largely unknown. In fact, there are only very few confirmed risk factors. Medical radiation from radiotherapy, CT scans and X-rays to the head, is one of the only definite risk factors for brain tumors. However, since X-rays and CT scans are often a medical necessity to diagnose illnesses, these exams are always requested in a judicious manner with technology to reduce radiation exposure as much as possible.”
Researchers have looked at different possible causes of brain tumors and have found the following:
Mobile phone signals: So far, most scientific studies have found no clear association between the use of mobile phone and brain tumors. However, since some studies have shown possibly increased risks for developing certain types of brain tumors, we cannot be completely sure about the long-term effects of mobile phones. Further studies will be needed to assert the complete safety of mobile phones and precautions to be taken if needed.
Power lines: Several studies have found that there is no increased risk of brain tumors if you live near power lines.
Hair dye: Using hair dye is unlikely to increase the risk of developing a brain tumor according to the latest research.