Brain tumors develop when brain cells divide without control. In most cases, brain tumors are not primary tumors but metastases coming from different body sites. The information provided here refers to tumors that derive from the brain itself.
The most common symptoms are headaches, visual disturbances, speech and hearing difficulties, and behavioral changes, loss of consciousness, epileptic crises and fainting episodes.
Diagnostic procedure usually includes a complete neurological examination, brain CT and MRI. A definite diagnosis is secured only with a tumor biopsy. Specimen is taken either via CT guided biopsy or via open surgery.
Malignant brain tumors are a difficult and complicated therapeutic problem.
Medicine nowadays provides three main therapeutic pathways:
- Surgery: surgical intervention remains one of the main treatment options. It is used for brain tumors that are situated either in the meninges (anatomic structure that covers the brain), or in areas that can be excised with such surgical interventions that won’t cause neurological dysfunction. The aim of the treatment is to excise most or the whole of the tumor with the minimal toxicities.
- Radiotherapy: Radiotherapy contributes to local disease control. It is also used in an attempt to prevent brain tumor to recur in other areas of the brain.
- Chemotherapy: It works closely to radiotherapy in order to increase cell sensitivity, or it aims at killing cancer cells that have “escaped” from radiotherapy treatment. There are many new drugs that contribute to the treatment of brain tumors.
Genetic testing may identify a specific group of patients that are likely to respond in come cytotoxic drugs.