The brain is a sophisticated, elegant and an elaborate mass of tissue and nerve cells. It seamlessly controls our senses, our personality, helps regulate vital body functions and controls how we move in our surroundings.
When abnormal cells grow in the brain to develop a tumor, it can disrupt how we function and will require the ‘right’ treatment considerations that balance how the tumor is treated with how well our brain operates. Right treatment for brain tumor, however, needs a multi-disciplinary approach including intensive rehabilitation and post operative care, which is rarely available under a single roof.
To understand more about brain tumors and its care, let’s first understand it better.
UNDERSTANDING BRAIN TUMOR
The brain, its structure, and the role that each of its part plays in our everyday life, is remarkable. These are only some of the reasons why a tumor in the brain is so complicated. Brain tumor is classified based on the origination of tumor cells, and whether they are malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous). While benign tumors are the least aggressive, has clear borders and originates from cells within or surrounding the brain that do not spread into other tissue; malignant tumors do not have clear borders and contain cancer cells that grow rapidly and invade surrounding brain tissue.
Primary & Secondary Brain Tumors
Primary Brain Tumor: A tumor that originates in the brain is called a primary brain tumor. Most brain tumors in children are primary tumors
Secondary Brain Tumor begins in another part of the body and then spread to the brain. These tumors are more common than primary brain tumors and are named by the location in which they originated.
Treatment for secondary brain tumors depends on the origin of the cancer and the extent of it.
Some people may have symptoms that suggest there is a brain tumor, others have no obvious symptoms. Usually, patients experience long-term headaches (usually worse in the morning), vision changes or visual disturbances, fits/seizures/convulsions, difficulty thinking and speaking or finding words, personality changes, tingling or stiffness in one side of the body, problems balancing or walking, nausea, and/or disorientation.
If the above symptoms are occurring, a doctor will ask questions about a patient’s medical history and overall health, and prescribe a variety of diagnostic tests to determine what is causing these problems, and then seek remedies.
Most often, these symptoms may not be only due to a brain tumor. Another health problem could cause them. If you have any of these symptoms, you should consult your doctor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment.
Diagnosing a brain tumor can be a complicated process and involve a number of specialists, depending on where a patient lives or where he/she seeks medical attention. A brain scan, most often an MRI, is the first step. A biopsy may be necessary, so a pathologist can be brought in to help identify the brain tumor type.
People with brain tumors have several treatment options. The options are surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Many people get a combination of treatments. The choice of treatment depends mainly on the type and grade of brain tumor, its size and location in the brain and the patient’s age and overall health.
Surgery is usually the initial and sometimes only treatment needed. Ideally, the neurosurgeon can completely remove a brain tumor with surgery. However, if complete removal is not possible, the surgeon will remove as much as possible (called a resection) without affecting the brain’s functions negatively. And, if a resection is not possible, then a biopsy will be done (removing a small piece of tumor tissue) to diagnose the tumor type so further treatment recommendations can be made. The aim is to remove as much of the tumor as is safely possible.
Patient’s involvement in the choice they make with their medical team can make a big difference in their experience and quality of life. This includes acknowledging their physical, social, and emotional needs. Most importantly, it includes partnering with their health care team to get answers to various questions that may arise during the treatment.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT TREATMENT & FACILITY MAKES THE DIFFERENCE
In times when disease and conditions spread and overlap beyond specific disciplines/specialties, brain tumor patients must choose a facility that offers them with comprehensive and complete pre- and post-operative care under one roof. Before the operation, a careful study of all the CT/MRI scans is required and the route and type of operation should then be decided after discussing the risks and benefits of the surgery with the patient.
Ideally, patients should choose a facility that has the latest technology accompanied by highly trained Neurosurgeon (a surgeon specialized in the surgical management of brain disorders), who work with other specialists to deliver most appropriate treatment for each patient. Apart from a neurosurgeon, brain tumor treatment team may involve neuro-anesthetists, neuro-radiologists, medical & radiation oncologists, interventional neurologists, post-operative care intensivists, trained nurses, rehabilitation specialists and other allied healthcare professionals