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About Brain Tumours - A Quick Guide

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  • 1. About Brain Tumours - A QuickGuideContents sides called hemispheres. The hemispheresThis is a brief summary of the information are divided into areas called lobes. Eachon ‘About brain tumours’ from lobe controls different parts and systems ofCancerHelp UK. You will find more the body.detailed information on the website. There are two smaller parts of the brainIn this information there are sections on called the hindbrain and the brain stem.– The brain The hindbrain, also called the cerebellum,– Brain tumour risks and causes controls balance and coordination. The– Screening for brain tumours brain stem controls automatic body– Brain tumour symptoms functions – the ones that happen without– Types of primary brain tumours us thinking about them. In the middle of– Should I see a brain tumour specialist? the brain is the pituitary gland. This is small– Questions for your doctor but very important. It makes hormones that control many different body functions.The brainThe brain controls the body by sendingelectrical messages along nerve fibres. Thefibres run out of the brain and join togetherto make the spinal cord. Together, thebrain and spinal cord form the centralnervous system. The brain is made ofbillions of nerve cells called neurones. Italso contains supporting cells called glialcells. It is surrounded by 3 thin coveringsheets called the meninges. The brain andspinal cord are bathed in a fluid calledcerebrospinal fluid.The largest part of the brain is called the Brain tumours cause different symptomsforebrain. It is divided into left and right depending on the part of the brain they areAbout Brain Tumours 01
  • 2. growing in. In adults, most brain tumours remember, brain tumours are rare causes ofare ones that have spread from an original both headaches and fits. There are muchcancer elsewhere in the body. These are more common reasons for both thesecalled secondary tumours. symptoms. A fit can just be jerking or twitching of a hand, arm or leg. Or it mayBrain tumour risks and causes affect the whole body.Brain tumours are relatively rare. In mostcases, we do not know what causes a brain A growing tumour causes pressure insidetumour. But there are a few risk factors we the skull. You may hear this called ‘raiseddo know about. intracranial pressure’. This causes headache, sickness and drowsiness. It can also causeAge problems with your eyes and fits.People can get brain tumours at any age.Like most cancers, they are more common A brain tumour presses on the brain tissuethe older you get. But some types are around it. So it will affect the part of themore common in younger people. Only body, or the body process, that isabout 300 children are diagnosed with brain controlled by that part of the brain. Thistumours in the UK each year, but this still means that brain tumours can cause a verymakes brain tumour the second most wide range of symptoms. Physicalcommon type of cancer in children, after symptoms can include weakness orleukaemia. numbness in a particular part of the body, or problems with one of your senses. BrainOther risk factors tumours can also cause personality changesUp to 5 of every 100 brain tumours (5%) and problems with thinking, speaking,are related to genetic conditions. If you remembering or concentrating.have a parent, brother or sister diagnosedwith a tumour of the nervous system, your Screening for brain tumoursrisk is about double that of other people. Screening means testing people for earlyOther groups at slightly increased risk are stages of a disease before they show anychildren with cerebral palsy and people with signs of having it. Screening is usually onlya weakened immune system. used for illnesses that affect large numbers of people.In the environment, the only definite riskwe know about is exposure to radiation. Before screening for any type of cancer canSome types of brain tumour are more be carried out, doctors must have ancommon in people who have had accurate test to use. The test must beradiotherapy to the head in the past. reliable in picking up cancers that are there.Researchers have investigated many other And it must not give a positive result inpossible risk factors, but none of these have people who do not have cancer. The onlybeen proven. test that can find a brain tumour is a brain scan.Brain tumour symptomsThe most common symptoms of a brain Screening is usually only used for illnessestumour are headaches and fits. But do that affect large numbers of people. BrainAbout Brain Tumours 02
  • 3. tumours are quite rare. If brain tumours information about some of the mostwere to be screened for, large numbers of common types.people who were well would have brainscans that they did not need. So at the Grade – benign or malignant?moment screening is not recommended or Brain tumours are put into groupspractical for brain tumours. according to how fast they are likely to grow. The cells are examined under aPrimary and secondary brain microscope. The more abnormal they look,tumours the more quickly the tumour is likely toCancer in the brain can start in the brain, or grow and the higher the grade. As a rule ofit can spread from another cancer thumb, low grade tumours are regarded assomewhere else in the body. benign and high grade as malignant.Cancers that start in the brain are called By benign we generally mean that theprimary brain tumours. Cancers that have tumour is relatively slow growing. It is lessspread to the brain from somewhere else likely to come back after it is completelyare called secondary brain tumours. removed, and is less likely to spread. It mayCancers of the lung, breast, kidney, not need treating with chemotherapy orstomach, bowel (colon), and melanoma skin radiotherapy after surgery.cancer can all spread to the brain. By malignant we generally mean that theHow does a cancer spread to the tumour is relatively fast growing. It is likelybrain? to come back after surgery, even ifCancer cells break away from the main completely removed. It may spread totumour and travel through the bloodstream other parts of the brain or spinal cord. Itto lodge in the brain and begin to grow into will need radiotherapy or chemotherapy tonew tumours. try and stop it coming back.If you are looking for information, it is Should I see a brain tumourimportant to understand which of these specialist?types of brain cancer you have. The It can be very difficult for GPs to decidetreatment and outlook may be very who may have a suspected cancer and whodifferent for each. has something more minor. Many people worry that a constant headache might meanTypes of primary brain tumours they have a brain tumour. In fact, less thanThere are nearly 100 different types of 1 in every 100 people suffering frombrain tumour. They are generally named headaches has a brain tumour. So it wouldafter the type of cell they developed from. not be right for doctors to refer everyoneMost develop from the cells that support with a headache urgently to a specialist.the nerve cells of the brain. These arecalled glial cells. A tumour of the glial cells Guidelines for urgent referralis called a glioma. Brain tumours can also The National Institute for Health andbe named after the area of the brain they Clinical Excellence (NICE) have producedare growing in. CancerHelp UK has more guidelines to help GPs decide who to referAbout Brain Tumours 03
  • 4. to a specialist. The symptoms they sayneed urgent referral within 2 weeks are More information For more information about• Headaches that occur in the early brain tumours, visit our website morning or have started recently and www.cancerhelp.org.uk are accompanied by other symptoms, such as vomiting, drowsiness, blackouts You will find a wide range of detailed, or changes in personality or memory up to date information for people• New nervous system symptoms that affected by cancer, including a clinical are getting worse trials database that you can search• A recent fit or fits - either affecting the for trials in the UK. You can view or print whole body, or just one part the information in a larger size if you need• Changes in behaviour, mental abilities to. or personality that are worsening quite quickly For answers to your questions about cancer call our Cancer InformationIf you are still worried Nurses on 0808 800 4040If you are concerned that your GP is not 9am till 5pm Monday to Fridaytaking your symptoms as seriously as theyshould, you could print this page ask yourGP to talk it through with you.Questions for your doctor aboutbrain tumours• How will I know if I have a brain tumour?• Will my diet, drinking or smoking habits increase my risk of a brain tumour?• Can I be screened for a brain tumour?• Do brain tumours run in families?• I have had breast cancer. Does thisincrease my risk of a brain tumour?• Is there anything I can do to reduce my risk of a brain tumour?• Will using my mobile phone increase my risk of brain tumour?• Does where I live increase my risk of brain tumour?Adapted from Cancer Research UK’s Patient Information Website CancerHelp UK in August 2010.CancerHelp UK is not designed to provide medical advice or professional services and is intended to befor educational use only. The information provided through CancerHelp UK and our nurse team is nota substitute for professional care and should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problemor disease. If you have, or suspect you may have, a health problem you should consult your doctor.© Cancer Research UK 2010. Cancer Research UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1089464)and in Scotland (SC041666).About Brain Tumours 04