Many people may think that brain tumor is not meant for them, even though it is a very common disease among Thais – more so in men than women – and it can occur at any age too.  A clear warning symptom is a chronic headache without any cause.  If it is not treated promptly, the condition may become more severe.  So, it is important to know about this disease which should not be ignored.

What is a brain tumor?

A brain tumor is a growth of cells in the brain that multiply abnormally.  It can be benign and malignant (cancerous).  There are as many as 120 types of brain tumor.  The most common type is formed directly by the brain cells.  Then there are those that are formed within the meninges, auditory nerve, and pituitary gland.  It can also come from cancer in another organ that has spread to the brain.

What causes a brain tumor?

There is no known cause, but in some cases the tumor may be hereditary or because the patient previously had radiation therapy to the head.  Although it occurs generally more in adults, children and the elderly can also have brain tumor.   Timely treatment is very important to prevent damage to nearby brain tissues. The sooner it is diagnosed and treated, the better the chance of a satisfactory outcome, with the possibility of a  complete cure.

What are the symptoms of brain tumors?

When there is a tumor in the brain, the tumor will keep growing and compressing or damaging the nearby brain tissues.  As it grows, the pressure within the skull increases.  Hence, patients with brain tumor will have chronic headaches along with nausea and vomiting, especially during the night or after waking up.  Taking pain killers does not alleviate the symptoms either.  As the tumor continues to grow, the symptoms will progressively worsen and, in some cases, the patients may have seizures also.  Because the growth damages the surrounding brain cells, the symptoms will vary depending on its location.  For example, if it is pressing against the part of the brain that controls the limbs, arms and legs muscles will become weaken; or if it is at the part that controls language and speech functions, the patient will lose perception as well as abilities to write, read, and speak; or if it is near optic nerve, the vision will be blurry; etc.  Noticeable symptom of a brain tumor is more than 15 days of persistent headache every month, for at least 3 consecutive months.  So, if you experience a relentless headache from unknown causes for more than 1 week, you need to consult your doctor as soon as possible.  

How to diagnose brain tumors?

The doctor will perform a thorough physical examination and check the patient’s medical history.  Additional CT Scan or MRI may be required to locate the tumor and measure its size.  PET/CT Scan may also be used to determine how the growth is spreading or where it initially originated.  Further, a biopsy can be performed for a precise diagnosis, so that a proper treatment plan can be established.  

How severe are brain tumors?

Severity of brain tumors are divided into 4 levels.  These are:

  • Level 1: Benign (non-cancerous) tumor that grows slowly but does not spread.  It can be completely cured.
  • Level 2: Benign tumor that is moderately aggressive, growing slowly but not spreading.  It can be treated but not completely cured.
  • Level 3: The tumor is malignant (cancerous) and may have spread from another organ.  It is incurable and can recur.
  • Level 4: The tumor has developed into a serious type of brain cancer and spreads quickly.  It can become fatal within a short period. 

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Brain Tumors Treatment Guidelines

Once brain tumor is diagnosed, the common treatment is a surgery to remove it entirely as this is the way to a permanent cure.  However, if the surgery is too dangerous for the patient, the surgeon will consider partial removal of the tumor.  Currently, there is a minimally invasive surgery (MIS) method that is guided by a Navigator for precision, accuracy, and safety.  This technique requires minimal incisions that yield minimal pain and, thus, allows fast recovery.  So, knowing this, the patient may be less nervous if such a surgery is needed.  However, there are also other methods to treat brain tumors – such as radiation to destroy or stunt the growth, and oral medication.  It will depend on the type, size and location of the tumor, as well as the age and health of the patient.  The doctor may also use a combination of treatment methods for the best possible outcome.

What happens if the tumor is left untreated?

Not all of the tumors are necessarily malignant.  However, if left untreated, the tumor may continue to grow until it presses on healthy parts of the brain nearby, damaging tissues and detrimentally affecting the corresponding functions – such as weakening of the limbs, numb face, crossed eyes, and facial asymmetry, as well as problems with balance, vision, speech, and hearing; in addition to altered levels of comprehension and perception.  If the tumor is allowed to continue to grow, it will increase pressure in the brain – causing headaches, or blocking blood flow to the brain, or pressing parts of the brain or around the brain stem.  Consequently, the patient will become lethargic or less alert.  The condition may be so severe that the patient becomes unconscious or even dies.

How to prevent from brain tumors?

Because the cause for brain tumors is still unclear, there is not any known method to prevent them.  The best way is to ensure that you remain healthy and avoid cancer risks such as smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages, while eating nutritious meals, getting sufficient rests, exercising regularly, as well as avoiding stress.  These factors will help reduce the risk of a brain tumor. 

Hospital Specializing in Brain Tumors Treatment

For any type of neurological disorders, Bangkok International Hospital is ready to provide treatment and care by our specialists that include multidisciplinary medical professionals, modern technology equipment and the latest treatment methods available.   We emphasize on treating the root cause to prevent recurrences, and on promoting a healthy brain.