Cancer is a frightening illness, but brain cancer is particularly scary. According to Cancer.net¹, more than 23,800 adults will be diagnosed with cancerous brain tumors this year – and brain cancer is the 10th leading cause of death for men and women.
Brain cancer appears when a tumor of cancerous cells forms in an area of the brain. And while brain cancer can be life threatening, it’s important to know the facts regarding symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options so you can begin tackling this cancer head on.
Early Warning Signs of Brain Cancer
When health issues related to the brain occur, it’s easy to be scared and worried that cancer is the culprit. Fortunately, as ABC2¹ explains, it’s very common that symptoms and signs related to brain cancer are actually caused by other health issues.
However, this can make it increasingly difficult to determine what’s a symptom of brain cancer and what’s a less concerning health issue. And if you’re having multiple symptoms or noticing changes in your health, it can be hard to know how worried you need to be.
That’s why it’s important to be informed and know what the symptoms of brain cancer are. ABC2² notes that the following are the most common signs of a potential brain tumor:
- Headaches, which are typically worse in the morning
- Nausea or vomiting
- Changes in your speech, vision, or hearing
- Problems walking or maintaining your balance
- Changes in your mood, personality, or focus/concentration
- Memory problems
- Jerking or twitching of muscles
- Seizures or convulsions
- Numbness or tingling in your limbs
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s a smart idea to schedule an appointment with your doctor in order to figure out whether you’re dealing with brain cancer or another health issue.
How Brain Cancer Is Diagnosed
Because brain cancer can present itself as other, less serious health issues, it’s very important to take the steps needed to get diagnosed the minute you begin noticing changes to your health and body.
If you begin experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, make sure to schedule an appointment with your doctor. The first step in getting a diagnosis is to undergo the testing needed to rule out other health conditions and determine whether or not a tumor is present.
If your doctor thinks that there’s a possibility of a brain tumor, ABC2³ notes that you can expect to undergo some or all of the following diagnostic tests:
- A neurologic exam, which checks your vision, hearing, muscle strength, coordination, and reflexes.
- An MRI, which takes detailed photos of your brain. These tests can include injecting contrast dye intro the veins to get a better, clearer picture.
- A CT scan, which is similar to an x-ray and takes photos of your head. Contrast dye is also often used for this test.
- An angiogram, which is similar to an x-ray. To get images of your blood vessels and the path to any tumors, you’ll have dye injected into your bloodstream.
- A biopsy, which removes tissue from the tumor and areas around the tumor to find cancerous cells and determine how big the tumor is.
Treatment Options for Brain Cancer
Once it’s determined that you have a cancerous brain tumor, treatment will be your next step. In order to figure out a treatment plan and determine which treatment options are the best for your unique situation, you’ll want to talk with your doctor.
The first step in figuring out your treatment plan is speaking with your doctor about where your cancer is at. Your doctor will have recommendations for you based on the following factors:
- The type of tumor you have
- The tumor’s location
- The size of the tumor
- Any other factors affecting your health
From there, your doctor will walk you through treatment options and the best plan of action for your diagnosis. There are a few different ways brain cancer is treated, and each option has different impacts on types of tumors, your overall cancer prognosis, and your health.
According to ABC2⁴, the following treatment options are commonly used:
- Surgery: Surgery is usually the first treatment option for brain tumors, as a surgeon can remove part or all of the tumor. Depending on your tumor, you may need to be awake during the surgery.
- Radiation therapy: Radiation can be used as a single treatment or in combination with other treatment options. Radiation kills cancerous cells, and it’s often done after surgery to ensure all traces of cancer are removed.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy relies on drugs to kill cancer cells, and those drugs are given intravenously or orally. Chemotherapy can also be done in combination with other treatments or on its own, but the goal is to remove all remaining cancer cells.
No matter what kind of brain tumor you’re diagnosed with, it’s important to be informed and aware of what your options are when it comes to treating brain cancer. Knowing these facts will help you notice signs or symptoms faster, understand your treatment options, and hopefully lead you towards a positive prognosis that brings you back to health.