The cells in your body grow, divide, and eventually die, and then are replaced by new cells. When this process is disrupted, and cells grow and divide more than they should (or do not die when they should), an abnormal mass of tissues may form on the brain. This is called a brain tumor, which may require surgery for removal.
Tumors can appear and sometimes spread to nearly any part of the body. A tumor’s effect on your health — as well as the difficulty locating, diagnosing, and treating it — can vary based on factors like size, location, and characteristics.
Any condition that appears in the brain is often more serious than the same condition appearing in a limb, for example, and a brain tumor diagnosis can be particularly alarming. A brain tumor could affect several vital functions including your memory, movement, senses, thoughts, and speech.
But not all brain tumors are the same, and there are different ways to treat brain tumors. The following information explains what you need to know if brain tumor surgery is required.
How Tumors Are Described
One of the most important factors in a tumor diagnosis is the tumor’s “behavior”:
- If the tumor grows slowly and doesn’t spread to other parts of the body, it’s considered non-cancerous or benign. It can still cause symptoms and require treatment, but it’s more isolated to a particular area.
- If the tumor grows fast or is likely to spread, it’s considered cancerous or malignant. The treatment of malignant brain tumors is often time-sensitive..
In addition, a tumor that originates (begins) in the brain is considered a primary tumor. If it has spread to the brain from another part of the body, it’s considered a secondary tumor. Tumors in the brain are more likely of the secondary kind.
During your diagnosis, other factors will help identify how aggressively your tumor will grow.
Types of Brain Tumors
There are many kinds of brain tumors, and they can appear in many areas of the brain, from nerve cells to the pituitary gland. Some appear more often in children, others more often in adults, and some more often in women than men.
The most common primary brain tumor in adults, which begins in the meninges (the layers of tissue surrounding the outer part of the brain and spinal cord) is called a meningioma.
Symptoms of a Brain Tumor
Many symptoms of a brain tumor are similar to symptoms of other conditions, which is why you should see a doctor if the symptoms persist. You might feel pain or a headache because the size of the tumor is causing pressure on the brain or spinal cord, or you might have symptoms because a part of the brain related to a specific function is directly affected by the tumor. These symptoms include:
- Sensory, memory, or personality changes
- Loss of balance
A number of tests will be performed to determine whether your symptoms are caused by a brain tumor. These tests include imaging (X-ray, MRI, CT scan) or a biopsy, which is a surgery to remove a small amount of tissue for examination.
Treatment for Brain Tumors: Surgery Is Not the Only Option
Once your brain tumor diagnosis is confirmed, surgery is not the only option. Your specific treatment will be determined by factors including:
- The characteristics of the tumor, including size and type
- The location of the tumor, and whether it’s putting pressure on important parts of the brain
- Whether the tumor is primary or secondary to a tumor elsewhere in the body
- Factors related to your age and medical history
Sometimes drugs (such as chemotherapy) or high-energy X-rays (radiation therapy) are used to slow the growth of cells or destroy them, but if the tumor needs to be removed, surgery is usually the option.
In addition, these treatment options might be combined:
- Surgery might be recommended to remove as much of the tumor as possible (without removing health cells) and the radiation or chemotherapy will target the remaining tumor cells.
- Instead of removing the tumor, the surgery is performed to give better access to an area being treated with radiation or chemotherapy.
- As described above, surgery might be performed in order to extract a tissue sample for a biopsy as part of a diagnosis. Further brain surgery or treatment might be performed right after the procedure or at a different time.
In some cases, such as with meningiomas, the tumor grows slowly enough that surgery isn’t required immediately, but the tumor will be monitored.
Your surgeon will explain how to prepare for and what will occur during the procedure, in addition to any risks and what to expect during your recovery in the hospital and at home. Again, this will vary based on your condition, the surgery, and personal factors including your age and medical history.
Contact M. Neil Woodall, MD, Today
If you require treatment for a brain tumor, including when surgery is required, Dr. Woodall has the skill, care, and experience to ensure you receive the expert treatment you need — without leaving the Athens area. Contact our office today.