What are the Symptoms of Brain Cancer?

In this blog, we will be discussing a common type of cancer, i.e. Brain Cancer, and its various symptoms that have come to my notice in my tenure as an oncologist.

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A brain tumor is a mass or growth of abnormal cells in your brain. Many types of brain tumors exist, some are noncancerous (benign) and some of them are cancerous (malignant). One-third of brain tumors are not cancerous.

Brain tumors can begin in your brain (primary brain tumors), or cancers can begin in other parts of your body and spread to your brain as secondary (metastatic) brain tumors.

Symptoms of Brain Cancer

Symptoms of brain tumors can be general or specific. A general symptom is caused by the pressure of the tumor on the spinal cord or brain. Specific symptoms are caused when a specific part of the brain is not working well because of the tumor.

General symptoms of brain cancer

  • Headaches, which may be severe and worsen with activity or at early morning
  • Personality or memory changes
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Seizures, people may experience different kinds of seizures. Certain drugs can be used to help prevent or control them. The different types of seizures are:
    • Motor seizure- also called convulsions, are sudden involuntary momentment of a person’s muscles.
    • Myoclonic- single or multiple muscle twitches, jerks or spasms.
    • Tonic-Clonic (Grand Mal)- loss of consciousness and body tone, followed by twitching and relaxing muscles that are called contractions. Loss of control of body functions, such as loss of bladder control. It may last for a short 30 seconds span and cause trouble in breathing. The after effects of this seizure may include a person feeling sleepy, having a headache, confusion, weakness, numbness and sore muscles.
    • Sensory- change in sensation, smell, vision or hearing without losing consciousness.
    • Complex partial- it may cause loss of awareness or partial or total loss of consciousness as well. Also can be observed in the form of repetitive, unintentional movements like twitching.
  • Sleep problems
  • Memory problems
  • Change in ability to perform daily activities like walking

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Specific symptoms of brain cancer

  • Pressure or headache near the tumor.
  • Loss of balance and difficulty with fine motor skills is linked with a tumor in the cerebellum.
  • Changes in judgement, including loss of initiative, sluggishness, or muscle weakness or paralysis is associated with a tumor in the frontal lobe of the cerebrum.
  • Partial or complete loss of vision is caused by a tumor in the occipital lobe or temporal lobe of the cerebrum.
  • Changes in speech, hearing, memory or emotional state such as aggressiveness and problems understanding or retrieving words can develop from a tumor in the frontal and temporal lobe of the cerebrum.
  • Inability to look upwards can be caused by a pineal gland tumor.
  • Lactation, which is the secretion of breast milk and altered menstrual periods in women, and growth in hands and feet in adults are linked with a pituitary tumor.
  • Difficulty in swallowing, facial weakness or numbness, or double vision is a symptom of tumor in the brain stem.

If a brain tumor is diagnosed, relieving symptoms remains an important part of your care and treatment. Be sure to talk about all the symptoms that you have noticed with your doctor in charge as from experience I can say that, this is how they can give the best possible treatment and provide specific drugs or other procedures to overcome some physically draining symptoms.

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