Brain tumors can indeed affect the mind, emotions, and/or personality. Problems with memory, speech, and/or concentration may occur. Brain tumors that occur in children are described as supratentorial (in the upper part of the brain) or infratentorial (in the lowest part of the brain). Astrocytomas and ependymomas are common supratentorial tumors. Brain tumor treatments do carry side effects, such as hair loss and nausea. Ask your doctor about possible side effects and how best to cope with them.
Brain tumor symptoms vary, depending on the tumor size, type and location. Symptoms may occur when a tumor damages a certain area of the brain or presses on a nerve. Brain tumor patients will often have a primary caregiver, the main person who assists and cares for the patients needs. Communication between family members may become more difficult in addressing changes in roles and responsibilities. Brain tumors (whether primary or metastatic, benign or malignant) are usually treated with surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy ? alone or in various combinations.
While it is true that radiation and chemotherapy are more often used for malignant, residual or recurrent tumors, decisions as to what treatment to use are made on a case-by-case basis and depend on a number of factors.
Brain tumors are diagnosed using sophisticated computer technology that images the brain in various ways. Computerized tomography (CT) uses a computer and X-rays to make a picture of the brain. Brain tumors can directly destroy brain cells.
They may also indirectly damage cells by pushing on other parts of the brain. Brain tumors are now the second fastest growing cause of cancer death among those over the age of 65. Unlike lung cancer and melanoma, which are the first and third on that list, there are no known lifestyle or behavioral changes that will reduce the risk of developing a brain tumor.
Brain tumors may be classified as gliomas or non-gliomas. The most common gliomas are astrocytomas, oligodendrogliomas (mixtures of oligodendroglioma and astrocytoma elements), and ependymomas.
Malignant (cancerous) tumors are typically rapidly growing and aggressive. Benign tumors are typically slow- growing and less aggressive. Malignant tumors grow the way a plant does, with “roots” invading various tissues. Or, they can shed cells that travel to distant parts of the brain.
Patients benefit from that knowledge and from specialized resources such as a dedicated neurological intensive care unit and the latest imaging technologies. Patients with brain stem gliomas typically are treated with radiation therapy alone, although both surgery and chemotherapy have been used, with little success.
Long-term survival rates are low for children with these tumors. Patients receive aggressive treatment in order to delay this regrowth as long as possible. Regrowth does not necessarily imply loss of control of the tumor, but it does mean that a new series of treatments should be considered because the tumor is becoming more aggressive.