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Brain Tumors: Types, Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Treatment Options

It can be stressful trying to determine if your headache is simply from dehydration or something more serious.

Is your vision going blurry because you are exhausted and haven’t eaten all day, or because there is a more detrimental issue?

At Dickinson Neurosurgery, we treat all kinds of neurological conditions, including brain tumors, with our competent team of experienced medical professionals who can help you understand the best options for you.

In this article, we are going to look at:

  • What are brain tumors
  • Different types of brain tumors
  • Signs and symptoms of brain tumors
  • Prevention of brain tumors
  • How to diagnose brain tumors
  • Treatment of brain tumors

What are Brain Tumors?

A brain tumor is an abnormal mass of cells that form inside of your brain. There are a couple of different causes of brain tumors and overarching types. In general, there are malignant and benign tumors.

Malignant tumors are cancerous tumors. Benign tumors are non-cancerous.

Multiple factors can cause brain tumors. While there isn’t one reason why they happen, we know that some brain tumors start in your brain; these are called primary brain tumors.

These kinds of tumors often form in your:

  • brain cells
  • meninges (membranes surrounding your brain)
  • nerves
  • glands

Other types of tumors are caused by cancer in other parts of your body that spread and form secondary (metastatic) brain tumors.

Different Types of Brain Tumors

With over 100 different types of brain tumors, the list is extensive. Each type of tumor grows at different speeds and needs specific kinds of treatment. For an accurate diagnosis of a potential brain tumor, feel free to contact us to schedule a consultation.

Meningioma: The most common type of brain tumor in the United States is meningioma. Approximately ⅓ of the brain tumors diagnosed are meningiomas. Technically, this type of tumor isn’t a brain tumor because it is in the meninges around your brain. Because they are on the membranes surrounding your brain, they can inhibit brain growth, leading to serious side effects on your sight, hearing, headaches, and other symptoms. These tumors are often benign and are left alone if they aren’t producing adverse side effects.

Glioblastoma: The glioblastoma is one of the most common primary brain tumors. Unfortunately, it is also very lethal. It can occur in either the brain or the spinal cord. Glioblastomas occur on astrocyte cells. These are the cells that support nerve cells.

Glioblastomas are most commonly found in adults but can be present in people of any age. They are often tough to treat because they don’t have clear borders. They can expand and infiltrate numerous parts of the brain. While they are hard to treat, there are some treatment options to slow the tumor’s growth and negative influences.

Astrocytoma: Astrocytomas are commonly found as well. They begin on the astrocyte cells, just like the glioblastomas. They can be found in the brain and the spinal cord. Because they can be found in different areas, symptoms aren’t always the same. The symptoms and signs of astrocytoma are very dependent on the location of the tumor.

There are also different grades of astrocytomas. Some are more aggressive and progress very quickly. Others are less aggressive and grow slowly. The treatment options are heavily dependent on the size and grade of the tumor.

Symptoms of Brain Tumors

Brain tumors can produce many potential symptoms because there are so many different types of tumors that can grow and form in many different places in your brain.

If you have been experiencing any of these symptoms, or others that are unusual, give us a call for an initial assessment. Many of these symptoms could be caused by a plethora of other things as well. If you are experiencing anything out of the ordinary that impairs your day-to-day life, we encourage you to reach out. We specialize in treating brain tumors, spinal tumors, and other neurological problems.

Some of the following symptoms are potential indicators of more serious issues affecting the brain:

Headaches: Everyone gets headaches occasionally. These are often from dehydration, exhaustion, hunger, stress, and other causes. If you are having lasting headaches, chronic headaches, more frequent and severe headaches, or headaches in new patterns, it could signify a brain tumor.

Nausea/Vomiting: Just like headaches, everyone gets nauseous. Nausea can be caused by illness, hormones, stress, lack of sleep, and other reasons. If you are finding yourself nauseous for no reason, you may want to contact us.

Vision Problems: Vision problems can include blurred vision, loss of vision, decreased peripheral vision, blind spots, and other issues with your eyesight.

Tingling/Loss of Sensation in Limbs: If you start to lose feeling, control, or sensation in a limb, this could be because of a tumor in your brain or spinal cord.

Balance Difficulties: Balance difficulties include the inability to walk, stand, or perform activities that you could perform previously.

Speech Difficulties: Speech difficulties can include slurred speech, an inability to talk, forgetting what you are saying in the middle of speaking, and other issues.

Seizures: Seizures are often worrying, but they can point to other illnesses other than brain tumors. If the seizures are new and you don’t have a pre-existing medical diagnosis, they could be a symptom of a brain tumor.

Personality/Behavior Changes: Often, this is a sign that is overlooked and not consistently recognized. These changes may occur slowly over time or rapidly. These symptoms could include making decisions against your values, differences in your reflexes, rapid mood swings, and others.

Exhaustion: By exhaustion, we don’t mean the random bout of sleepiness. Exhaustion refers to the constant need for sleep, sleeping excessively, never feeling rejuvenated, and an impaired ability to go about your day.

Hearing Problems: Hearing problems can include hearing loss, hearing voices/auditory hallucinations, and other deficits.

Memory Loss: Mild forgetfulness happens to everyone, while chronic forgetfulness is more serious. If daily cognition and comprehension skills are noticed to deteriorate at more severe rates than normal, this could be an indication of a more serious problem.

How To Diagnose Brain Tumors

The most common methods of diagnosing brain tumors include scanning the brain, exams, and biopsies.

A computer tomography scan (CT scan) takes images of your brain, similar to how x-rays take pictures of bones. The CT scan is much more detailed, sometimes requiring an injection of special dye (contrast) when taking a brain CT to help see the vessels and brain structures more clearly.

An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) can look at the brain’s structures even more detailed than a CT scan. An MRI uses a magnetic field, not radiation, to create these images. Special doctors then read these scans, and can determine if there is anything abnormal or not.

Neurological exams often include looking at balance, vision, memory, reflexes, and other functions. These are typically done by a neurological doctor, like a neurosurgeon.

Treatment of Brain Tumors

Options for treatment vary depending on the location, stage, and type of tumor. For accurate and individualized treatment options, reach out to us so Dr. Dickinson can give you a complete prognosis.

Treating tumors in early or late stage methods vary depending on the severity and location, but here are three of the most common options doctors recommend:

Surgery: Surgery can be an option to attempt to remove the tumor. Dr. Dickinson specializes in surgery on brain tumors with innovative and new advances in modern technology to improve the procedures. He uses techniques including radiosurgery and image-guided stereotactic surgery.

Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is a type of drug therapy that uses a potent drug to try and kill fast-growing cells, like cancer and tumors, in your body.

Radiation: Radiation therapy is often used as a cancer treatment that can kill or shrink tumors. Beams of high-intensity radiation are used to kill cancer cells.

What You Should Do Now

Don’t let this fear of a brain tumor control your life. It is normal to have headaches, dizziness, forgetfulness, and exhaustion sometimes. But, if these symptoms are constant and impair your ability to do your daily activities, it is time to get it checked out.

Dr. Dickinson and our team at Dickinson Neurological Surgery would love to meet with you and answer any questions you have. Contact us today to set up an appointment.

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