What is a Brain Tumor?
A brain tumor is abnormal tissue growth that can interfere with how the brain works. Brain tumors can develop in many parts of the brain and can be cancerous or non-cancerous and slow- or fast-growing.
Baptist Health is known for advanced, superior care in diagnosing and treating brain tumors. Our 24/7 inpatient neurology and neurosurgery services, as well as our outpatient and Home Health physical, occupational, cognitive and speech therapy services are available to help treat people with brain tumors. In addition, we have the region’s only advanced 3Tesla MRI, MRI spectroscopy and functional MRI, MRI angiography, CT angiography and conventional cerebral angiography technology to accurately diagnose all manner of neurologic disease, including brain tumors.
You will appreciate timely appointments and a professional, friendly atmosphere where we take time to listen to your concerns. At Baptist Health, you have access to the region’s most comprehensive, multidisciplinary team of specialists and innovative therapies, including many available only through specialized clinical trials. In every way, we work to demonstrate the utmost in excellent care to those who trust us with their health.
Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of a brain tumor vary by type, size and location, but in general may include:
- Anxiety and depression
- Balance and coordination problems
- Headaches that become more frequent
- Loss of consciousness
- Memory loss
- Mood and personality changes
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Sensory changes in feeling pressure, temperature or sharpness
- Speech problems that include speaking and understanding words
- Vision problems that include blurred or double vision
To determine if someone has a brain tumor, a physician will do a thorough physical exam and ask about medical history and family background. We also use advanced diagnostic procedures and technology to effectively diagnose, inform treatment and carefully monitor the condition. Diagnostic procedures can include:
Biopsy: Depending on the location of the brain tumor, a neurosurgeon may use this procedure to draw out a small amount of tissue with a fine needed. The tissue will be examined under a microscope to determine whether the tumor is cancerous.
Blood tests: Blood tests check for certain proteins or cancer cells or if there are too few or too many blood cells that could indicate a tumor or cancer.
Cerebral angiogram: During this procedure, the physician inserts a thin, flexible catheter into a large artery in the brain, injects a special dye into the catheter and takes X-rays that can show differences in areas of the brain.
Cerebrospinal fluid test: In this test, also called a lumbar puncture or spinal tap, cerebrospinal fluid is withdrawn from the spine with a fine needle and examined for indications of a tumor.
CT scan: X-rays and computers are used to create images of the brain. This provides a more detailed picture than an ultrasound.
Electroencephalography (EEG): In this test, sensors are attached to the head with sticky tape. The sensors are hooked up to a special computer that can record the brain’s electrical activity.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A large magnet, radio waves and a computer are used to produce detailed pictures of the brain.
Positron emission tomography (PET): During a PET scan, a small amount of radioactive material is given to you to swallow, inhale or is injected. This material accumulates in the brain and emits signals that can be detected by a special camera or imaging device. This device produces detailed pictures of the brain’s activity.
Stereotactic needle biopsy: If a brain tumor is difficult to reach or located in a sensitive area, this procedure may be needed for a definite diagnosis. A surgeon will drill a small hole in the skull and use computer images to guide a thin needle to remove a small amount of tumor tissue. The tissue, studied under a microscope, can help determine the type of tumor and how to proceed with treatment.
While there are certain risk factors that contribute to brain tumors, there is no known cause for noncancerous brain tumors.
Risk factors that may contribute to brain tumors include:
Age: The risk of developing a brain tumor increases as people age. Brain tumors can develop at any age, but are most common in adults age 60 and older.
Family history: The risk increases for developing a brain tumor if a family member has neurofibromatosis type 1 or type 2, tuberous sclerosis or Von Hippel-Lindau disease.
Gender: Brain tumors are slightly more common in men more than women. Immune disorders raise the risk for developing a brain tumor.
Immune disorders: AIDS and other immune disorders raise the risk for developing a brain
There is no known way to prevent brain tumors.
The prognosis for a brain tumor depends on its type, stage and location. An early diagnosis and treatment may provide the best outcome for a brain tumor.
Treatment and Recovery
Treatment of a brain tumor depends upon its type, size and location, a person’s age and overall health. Treatment may include:
This treatment may be needed after a tumor is removed, or if surgery is not an option. There are several types of radiation therapy.
- High-energy radiation is directed specifically to the site of the tumor to kill tumor cells.
- Stereotactic radiosurgery uses high-dose radiation targeted precisely to the tumor.
- Proton beam therapy directs protons instead of X-rays directly onto the tumor, and energy used to destroy the tumor cells is released only within the targeted tumor.
Surgery is used most often to remove or reduce as much of a brain tumor as possible. Brain surgery for tumors is approached with the latest in minimally invasive technology designed to remove as much of the tumor as safely possible while minimizing trauma to surrounding brain tissue.
Recovery After Surgery
Physical, speech or occupational therapy may be needed if the brain tumor affected certain areas of the brain. Follow lifestyle guidelines to aid recovery:
- Eat healthy foods
- Exercise gently when the physician allows it
- Quit smoking
- Get emotional support from friends, family or a support group
- Go to follow-up visits
Brain tumor complications can include:
Changes in body function: A brain tumor can press on nerves, tissue or glands and cause difficulties with movement, speech or vision., as well as weakness or paralysis.
Reoccurrence: Even after successful treatment, a brain tumor may return.
Swelling: Brain tumors can cause swelling in the brain and/ or the spinal cord.
Next Steps with MyChart
Discover MyChart, a free patient portal that combines your Baptist Health medical records into one location. Schedule appointments, review lab results, financials, and more! If you have questions, give us a call.