What is a brain tumor?
A brain tumor is a growth in your brain that may or may not be cancer. Brain tumors may start in your brain or may have spread to your brain (metastasized) from another part of your body.
Brain tumors can cause serious problems even if they aren’t cancer, because your skull is hard and there's no space for the tumor to grow
As a brain tumor grows, it pushes on your brain and raises the pressure inside your skull, which can affect your entire brain and be quickly fatal
Brain tumors cause different symptoms depending on where they are in your brain
Common symptoms include headaches, personality changes, loss of balance, trouble concentrating, seizures, and clumsiness
In older people, brain tumor symptoms may be mistaken for dementia Dementia Dementia is a brain problem that makes it hard to remember, think, and learn. Most dementia begins little by little and starts after age 65. It’s normal for the brain to change with age, but... read more
Treatments may include surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy
What are the symptoms of brain tumors?
Brain tumor symptoms may start suddenly or develop slowly over time. Symptoms include:
Headaches, especially if they happen more often or get worse when you lie down
Problems with mental function and mood, such as becoming withdrawn, moody, drowsy, or confused, or acting in ways that are a change from your usual personality
Feeling sick to your stomach and throwing up
Dizziness, loss of balance, and clumsiness
Being sleepy and confused
Depending on which area of the brain the tumor is in, it may affect:
Movement of an arm, a leg, or one side of your body
Speaking or understanding language
Your sense of hearing, smell, or sight
How can doctors tell if I have a brain tumor?
Doctors do tests such as:
Spinal tap Spinal Tap Spinal fluid is a liquid that surrounds your brain and spinal cord. Spinal fluid helps cushion your brain if you hit your head or fall. Spinal fluid moves freely around your brain and spinal... read more (doctors take out a small amount of fluid around the brain and spinal cord, using a needle placed in your lower back, to run tests on and look at under a microscope)
Sometimes doctors can tell what kind of tumor it is from the MRI or CT scan. Sometimes doctors do a biopsy of the tumor (take out part of the tissue to look at under a microscope).
How do doctors treat a brain tumor?
Doctors treat a brain tumor based on where it is and the symptoms you're having. Unlike tumors in other parts of your body, whether a brain tumor is a cancer or not isn't as important. Noncancerous tumors can cause severe brain problems too. Treatments include:
Surgery to remove the tumor
If you have a very small, noncancerous tumor that isn't causing many symptoms, doctors may leave it alone.
People with cancerous brain tumors may quickly become unable to make decisions about their medical care and end-of-life needs. If you have a cancerous brain tumor, speak to a counselor or social worker to help you create an advance directive. An advance directive Advance Directives Health care advance directives are legal documents that communicate a person’s wishes about health care decisions in the event the person becomes incapable of making health care decisions. There... read more is a plan to let your loved ones and doctors know what kinds of medical care you want toward the end of your life.