Brain tumors

By Medically reviewed by hellodoktor


What is brain tumor?

A brain tumor is a mass of tissues formed by the growth of abnormal cells. This mass of tissue originates from the brain or central spine that possibly disrupts the normal functions of the brain.

There are many types of brain tumors. And the category depends on where the tumor cell is originated, and whether they are malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous):

  • Benign: this non-cancerous type is the least aggressive. They do not contain cancerous cells, and may originate from cells within or near the brain. Their growth rate is relatively slow and the cells do not spread out to other tissues.
  • Malignant: this cancerous type is potentially fatal. They typically grow faster than the benign tumor and aggressively invade surrounding tissues, such as the central nervous system and other parts of the brain.
  • Primary: this type defines tumor that begins in brain cells. Primary tumors rarely affect other organs, but can spread to other parts of the brains and the spine.
  • Metastatic: this type is also known as the secondary tumor. The tumor actually originates from other parts of the body and spread to the brain.

How common is brain tumor?

This health condition can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of brain tumor?

Brain tumor’s symptoms depend greatly on the type, the location and the size of the tumor. Different parts of the brain have control over different parts of the body; the symptoms might differ depending on where the tumors stay. Some tumors might manifest symptoms that develop over time, others might show no symptom at all until they become very large and devastate our health.

The common symptoms of brain tumor include:

  • Seizures, especially in someone with no seizures history
  • Recurrent headaches, or pattern change of headaches
  • Unexplained nausea or vomiting
  • Vision problems, such as blurred vision, double vision or peripheral vision’s loss
  • Hearing difficulties
  • Speech and/ or comprehending difficulties
  • Coordination/ balance issues
  • Numbness or tingling in an arm or a leg
  • Memory loss
  • Concentration problems
  • Personality changes

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes brain tumor?

These are two causes of brain tumor.

  • Primary brain tumor: this type of tumor originates in the brain itself, or in tissues surrounding the brain or tissues nearby the brain, such as the meninges (the membrane covering the brain), cranial nerves, pituitary gland or pineal gland. Primary brain tumors start with a mutation in the cell’s DNA. These mutations are so-called errors in the processing of the DNA, which allows cells to grow, divide speedily, stay healthy while acquiring nutrients and force other healthy cells to die off. This results in a mass of abnormal cells – the tumor.
  • Metastatic (secondary) brain tumor: this type of tumor originates from other parts of the body, and starts spreading out (metastasizing) to the brain. The secondary brain tumor is much more common than primary tumor.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for brain tumor?

There are many risk factors for brain tumor, such as:

  • Age: the risk of a brain tumor increases with ages. The brain tumor is more common in older adults. However, this condition can happen to anyone at any age, and there are certain types of brain tumors occur in children exclusively.
  • Radiation exposure: there are many types of radiations. People exposed to ionizing radiation stand a higher risk of brain tumors. Some examples of ionizing ration include radiation therapy for cancer treatment and radiation exposure from the atomic bomb. However, radio frequency radiation from common sources such as cell phones and microwave ovens has not been scientifically proved to be linked to brain tumors.
  • Family with history of brain tumors: those with family members/ relatives with the history of brain tumors might stand a higher chance of the condition.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is brain tumor diagnosed?

If you suspect that you might have a brain tumor, your healthcare provider will first ask you about your symptoms and family history health condition. Then he/ she can recommend you to undergo a few tests and procedure to diagnose, including:

  • Neurological exam: this is a physical exam to check your vision, hearing, balance, coordination, strength and reflexes. Difficulty in any areas can allow the doctor to have a better clue which part of your brain is affected, and request you for further tests.
  • Imaging studies: magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or CT scan allows a detailed image of your brain. Other approaches such as angiogram or MRA, which involves the use of dye and X-rays of blood vessels in the brain, allows the doctors to look for signs of a tumor or abnormal blood vessels
  • Biopsy: this procedure is to check whether your tumor is cancerous or not. A tissue sample will be removed from your brain either during a surgery or using a needle inserted through a hole drilled into your skull. The sample will be sent for testing.

How is brain tumor treated?

Treatment for brain tumors depends on many factors, such as:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history
  • The type, location, and size of the tumor
  • How likely the tumor is to spread or reoccur
  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

Treatment for these symptoms may include:

  • Antiseizure/Antiepileptic Drugs (AEDs)
  • Steroids
  • Surgery

Often, low-grade tumors (grade I and II), which are not aggressive, undergo treatment of surgery and regular monitoring. Though all tumors will be watched closely with regular scans, grade II tumors are under stricter observation after surgery to ensure no recurrence.

However, high-grade tumors (grade III and IV), are malignant and can grow very fast. They are extremely difficult to remove and very often require additional treatments beyond surgery. Re-occurrence rate is very high. All treatments serve the purpose of symptoms improvement and life prolonging. Additional treatment options for high-grade tumors include:

  • Radiation therapy: X-rays and other radiation forms can slow tumor growth or destroy tumor cell.
  • Chemotherapy: this therapy involves the drug, taken orally or intravenously, to kill rapidly dividing cells.
  • Targeted therapy: this treatment focuses on a specific element, such as molecules or pathways required for cell growth, and use them as the therapy target.
  • Tumor Treating Fields: this treatment involves the use of a wearable device. This device will produce electric fields that disrupt the rapid cell division exhibited by cancer cells.

All brain tumor patients have to develop a plan with the doctor, not just for immediate treatment, but also for recovery and long-term management. Because treatment for cancer might affect other healthy tissues, it’s important to be informed of all possible side and long-term effects of any considered treatments. Long-term management plan following treatment can include:

  • Continuous follow-up care
  • Rehabilitation: physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy
  • Supportive care/ Palliative care

Lifestyle changes & Home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage brain tumor?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with brain tumor:

  • Healthy mindset: keep a positive mind. Try to stay away from sources of stress. Do the things you love and keep a healthy lifestyle.
  • Healthy diet: try to opt for a healthy diet with fruit and vegetable, lean meat, and low-fat products. Cut down on your alcohol and avoid smoking.
  • Healthy exercise: regular exercise can help you with both your physical and emotional health. Try to do more exercise. Keep in mind that feeling fatigued and tired during your exercise is normal. You can try to decline the intensity of your exercise and start lower. The key here is consistency!

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

msBahasa Malaysia

Review Date: October 1, 2016 | Last Modified: September 12, 2019

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