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Overview

Anatomy of the Brain

The brain is an important organ that controls thought, memory, emotion, touch, motor skills, vision, respiration, temperature, hunger, and every process that regulates your body.

Brain Tumors

A brain tumor is an abnormal growth of tissue in the brain. The tumor can either originate in the brain itself or come from another part of the body and travel to the brain.

Basics of Brain Tumors

Brain tumors form in one of two ways: A primary brain tumor starts with an abnormal brain cell and grows in the brain, and a metastatic tumor starts with an abnormal cell from another organ that makes its way into the brain, stays there, and multiplies to form a tumor made of that kind of cell.

Skull Base Chordoma

A chordoma is a form of bone cancer that can occur anywhere along the length of the spine, from the base of the skull to the lower back.

Craniopharyngioma

A craniopharyngioma is a benign tumor that is found near the pituitary gland, a structure in the brain that controls the release of many hormones in the body.

Rathke Cleft Cysts

Rathke cleft cysts are fairly rare. They make up less than 1 percent of all tissue masses that start in the brain.

Paranasal Sinus Tumors

A paranasal sinus tumor is a cancer that has grown inside your sinuses, the open spaces behind your nose.

Olfactory Neuroblastoma

An olfactory neuroblastoma often happens on the roof of the nasal cavity. It involves the cribiform plate, which is a bone between the eyes and located deep in the skull.

Astrocytoma

An astrocytoma is a type of brain tumor that develops in astrocytes, the star-shaped cells in the brain that hold nerve cells in place. Astrocytomas are most common in middle-aged men, but they can occur in children, too.

Skull Base Rhabdomyosarcoma

Rhabdomyosarcoma is a rare type of cancer that starts in skeletal muscle cells, the muscles that control all of your voluntary muscle movements.

Am I At Risk for a Brain Tumor?

Doctors do not know exactly what causes a brain tumor, although certain factors appear to raise your risk: exposure to radiation or pesticides, an impaired immune system, and a family history of brain tumors.

Oligodendroglioma

Oligodendrogliomas are uncommon brain tumors. They make up about 3 percent of all brain tumors. They are usually found in men in their mid-30s to mid-40s, but they can develop at any age, including during childhood.

Understanding Your Diagnosis

X-rays of the Skull

X-rays of the skull may be performed to diagnose fractures of the bones of the skull, birth defects, tumors, and certain disorders that cause bone defects of the skull. Skull X-rays may also be used to evaluate the nasal sinuses and detect calcifications within the brain.

Computed Tomography (CT or CAT) Scan of the Brain

CT scans of the brain can provide detailed information about brain tissue and brain structures than standard x-rays of the head, thus providing more information related to injuries and/or diseases of the brain.

Computed Tomography (CT or CAT) Scan of the Spine

A CT scan of the spine may be performed to assess the spine for a herniated disk, tumors and other lesions, the extent of injuries, structural anomalies such as spina bifida, blood vessel malformations, or other conditions.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET Scan)

Positron emission tomography (PET) is a specialized radiology procedure used to examine various body tissues to identify certain conditions. PET may also be used to follow the progress of the treatment of certain conditions.

Electroencephalogram (EEG)

The EEG is used to evaluate several types of brain disorders, including epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease, certain psychoses, and certain sleep disorders.

Craniotomy

A craniotomy is the surgical removal of part of the bone from the skull to expose the brain.

I've Just Been Told I Have a Brain Tumor

It’s OK to feel overwhelmed and afraid. But you shouldn’t let those feelings stop you from finding out as much as you can about your cancer and about the options you have.

Understanding Your Grade of Brain Tumor

Before your doctor can recommend a treatment plan, he or she needs to know the grade of the cancer. The grade tells your doctor how malignant the tumor is and how it might respond to treatment.

Myelogram

A myelogram, also known as myelography, is a procedure that combines the use of dye with x-rays or CT scans to assess the spinal cord, subarachnoid space, or other structures for abnormalities, particularly when another type of examination, such as a standard x-ray, is inconclusive.

Deciding on Treatment

What to Know About Chemotherapy for Brain Tumors

Chemotherapy uses anticancer drugs to kill cancer cells. The drugs attack and kill cells that divide rapidly. Some of these rapidly dividing cells are cancer, but others are normal cells in the body.

Brachytherapy

Brachytherapy is radiation treatment that is given inside the patient, as close to the cancer as possible. The radiation is delivered to the body site with radioactive isotopes inside wires, seeds, or rods. These devices are called implants.

Surgery For Cancer Treatment

One type of surgery for cancer is curative. This procedure removes the cancerous tumor or growth from the body. Surgeons use curative surgery when the cancerous tumor is in one specific area of the body. This type of treatment is often considered the primary treatment, but other types of cancer treatments, such as radiation, may be used before or after the surgery.

Targeted Therapy for Brain Tumors

Certain targeted therapies use various molecules to eliminate or reduce tumor cells or block their destructive behavior. Most are still in the research stages.

Managing Side Effects

Coping with the Cognitive Effects of Brain Tumors

Brain tumors may affect your cognition, which is your ability to think, reason, and remember. Many people with brain tumors have problems with concentration, language skills, and memory, as well.

Fatigue: Management

Fatigue can come and go or stay constant for a while. Fatigue from chemotherapy tends to occur a few days after the treatment, peaks, and then gets better before the next treatment. Fatigue from radiation may not happen right away.

Support for a Loved One with a Brain Tumor

One way to reach out is to provide emotional support or help your loved one find an appropriate source of social support. Many people who have brain tumors find it helpful to talk to others who have been through a similar diagnosis and treatment program.

Rehabilitation for Children with Brain Tumors

After brain tumor treatment, it’s normal for a child to have after-effects. For instance, your child may have trouble talking, walking normally, or swallowing. Rehabilitation therapy can lessen these problems and help your child turn to normal activities, such as attending school.

Cancer FAQs

Advanced Reading

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