Tumor Symptoms & Diagnosis
Brain Cancer Symptoms
depends upon where in the brain the cancer arises, and how
big it becomes before coming to medical attention. The brain
has particular areas controlling thought, sight, hearing,
sensation, movement, coordination and mood. The upper brain
area tends to control the more advanced thought functions,
while the middle controls mood and movement and the rear (or
"brain stem") stimulates breathing and heart rate.
most common general symptoms of brain cancer are:
Nausea and vomiting.
Imbalance and stumbling.
Weakness in just
one portion of the body (generalized weakness is not a symptom).
Visual problems -
double vision, partial blindness.
Judgment or personality
- breast enlargement / change in sex drive.
in vision or hearing.
SIADH - an insatiable
desire to drink water, with frequent urination.
A tumor simply means a swelling, and isn't necessarily brain cancer.
A patient will come to the doctor with symptoms suspicious
for a brain tumor, and the physician will perform a neurological
examination to check the nerves or the brain which control
the eyes and face, check for equal strength and sensation
on both sides of the body, coordination and balance, and memory
and judgment. He will look into the eyes for signs of increased
pressure in the skull, such as swelling of the optic disks.
If a brain tumor is seen suspected or has been seen from a CAT scan
the next test ordered is a Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI)
scan. It takes about an hour of lying still, is painless.
The MRI scan will show if there are any tumors in the brain.
only way to be absolutely sure of what kind of brain tumor is
present is to take a sample (biopsy) of it. Nowadays, biopsies
are very safe (less than 1% of patients die from them) and
are usually obtained under stereotactic guidance (a fine-needle
is exactly placed into the tumor after visualizing it in 3
dimensions). The biopsy material is examined by a pathologist,
a doctor who specializes in diagnosing disease from tissue
samples. He does special stains on it and examines it under
a microscope to see what type of tumor it is, and grades it
depending upon how aggressive it looks. Rarely, the type of
brain tumor is so obvious from the scans or is so deep in the brain
that a biopsy isn't gotten, the tumor is treated based upon
whats it's presumed to be.
Other possible tests include an MRI of the spine for certain
brain tumors (medulloblastoma and high grade ependymoma) which tend
to seed down the spine, a spinal tap to look for cancer cells
shedding into the cerebral-spinal fluid that bathes the brain
and spinal cord, and an endocrine (hormonal) blood test evaluation
for pituitary or midbrain tumors. We may test to look for
the origin of the brain tumor elsewhere in the body if it is believed
not to have started in the brain. Spread of primary brain
tumors to other body organs is very rare, but when it occurs
it's usually to lung or bone marrow.