4 key points on brain tumors

A brain tumor is tissue that grows uncontrollably inside the head. It is often confused with the word “cancer,” but these concepts should not be mixed.

Brain tumors can originate within the skull itself (also known as “primary” brain tumors) or, more frequently, they can result from the settlement of malignant cells originating in other tissues (lung, breast, prostate, etc.). The latter are known as “secondary” brain tumors or metastases.

Causes of brain tumors

It is important to differentiate between primary and secondary tumors. The latter are associated with the original tumor, i.e. if the brain tumor is a metastasis of a lung lesion, factors associated with this tumor, such as smoking or exposure to asbestos, should be considered.

Unfortunately, the factors associated with primary brain tumors are poorly understood. Numerous factors have been studied, such as blows to the head or the use of cell phones, but no clear association with the development of brain tumors has been demonstrated.

Consequences of brain tumors

As mentioned above, brain tumors are tissues that grow uncontrollably. Some grow slowly (“low grade” growing tumors) while others grow rapidly (“high grade” growing tumors).

This differentiation is very important, much more so than the concept of “benign” or “malignant” in the brain, since a tumor may be benign because its cells do not spread (do not metastasize), but unfortunately it is located in a vital brain region. In addition, a benign tumor can cause very significant alterations in behavior, mobility or sensation.

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Symptoms of brain tumors

As for symptoms, brain tumors may be detected by chance in a patient who is being studied for headache. On other occasions, they may present with neurological symptoms, such as loss of strength, behavioral alteration or seizure. As mentioned above, the speed of growth is important, since tumors that grow slowly present fewer symptoms than those that grow rapidly.

Surgical treatment of brain tumors

The great technological development of this century has also reached the operating rooms. Nowadays, brain surgery can be performed, removing the tumor completely and without sequelae. Surgical results have improved so much that the prognosis of patients does not depend on the surgery itself, but on the biology (aggressiveness) of the tumor. The use of microscopy, neuro-navigation and better knowledge of brain anatomy allow us to perform safer surgeries for our patients.

It is important to emphasize that not all brain tumors require surgery, and the appropriate selection of treatment should be carried out in committees formed by a multidisciplinary medical team, i.e. by specialists in Neurosurgery, Oncology, among others.