Friday, March 27, 2009 5:31

Because the brain is surrounded by bone, there is very little room for a tumor to grow without increasing the pressure within the skull. Therefore, the symptoms of brain tumors occur fairly early, when the growths are still small. Some brain tumors start within the brain itself and cause their damage by enlarging quickly, rather than spreading to other organs. Others have spread from another part of the body, and sometimes the first sign of the initial cancer is the brain metastatic tumor.

Not all tumors of the brain are malignant. One common type of benign tumor found in older people is a meningioma. These grow very slowly but gradually may cause memory lapses, changes in personality or weakness of a limb. Sometimes they cause no symptoms at all. Often, they can be safely and successfully removed.

Malignant tumors of the brain, however, are difficult to treat. The first symptoms may likewise be a change in personality, impairment of memory and judgment, agitation, or depression. In the early stages the diagnosis may waver between an emotional disorder and a disease of the nervous system. The early tests, which may include a nuclear brain scan, and CAT and MRI scans, as well as an electroencephalogram (EEG), may be inconclusive. The progress of the illness is usually fast, and ultimately there may be numbness or tingling, weakness in a limb, or vision impairment. On some occasions a seizure (fit), as might be seen in epilepsy, can occur.

If the tumor is near the surface of the brain, an attempt may be made to remove it surgically. Radiation therapy and cortisone medication often lessen brain swelling and pressure, thus temporarily improving symptoms. The illness eventually progresses, however, and patients ultimately slip into a deep coma before death.


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