At Orange County CyberKnife, we understand how difficult a cancer diagnosis can be, whether it’s for you or a loved one. If you or someone you know has recently been diagnosed with brain cancer, this probably an extremely difficult time. It’s normal to feel a wide range of emotions after a cancer diagnosis, and many people feel helpless after receiving the news – but there is hope. At OC CyberKnife, we’ve helped countless patients overcome their cancer through state-of-the-art cancer treatments. First, let’s understand the facts of brain cancer and see what treatment options are available to you.
Brain cancer forms when a number of cells in the brain experience abnormal growth, eventually causing a collection of damaged cells called a brain tumor. Brain cancer comes in two main forms:
Symptoms and side effects of brain cancer vary widely between patients, and they’ll depend on the location, size, and orientation of the tumor. A few common brain tumor symptoms include:
At Orange County CyberKnife, we’re experts in using the most advanced radiation oncology techniques to eliminate cancerous tumors in the brain and other parts of the body. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you overcome cancer and reclaim a normal, healthy life, please feel free to call us at 714.962.7100 or reach out to us at our contact page. We hope to hear from you soon, and we look forward to partnering with you in your fight against cancer.
Find out more about brain cancer:
Grading helps us understand how aggressive, or malignant, a tumor is. Staging tells us if the tumor has spread and if so, how far.
There are four tumor grades — I, II, III, and IV. The higher the grade, the more malignant the tumor. Tumor grading helps the doctor, patient, and caregivers/family members to better understand the patient’s condition. It also helps the doctor plan treatment and predict outcome.
Below are description of the various tumor grades, based on the World Health Organization (WHO) grading system.
Grade I: These are the least malignant tumors and are usually associated with longterm survival. They grow slowly and have an almost normal appearance when viewed through a microscope. Surgery alone may be an effective treatment for this grade tumor. Pilocytic astrocytoma, craniopharnygioma, and many tumors of neurons—gangliocytoma and ganglioglioma, for instance—are examples of grade I tumors.
Grade II: These tumors are slowgrowing and look slightly abnormal under a microscope. Some can spread into nearby normal tissue and recur, sometimes as a higher grade tumor.
Grade III: These tumors are, by definition, malignant although there is not always a big difference between grade II and grade III tumors. The cells of a grade III tumor are actively reproducing abnormal cells, which grow into nearby normal brain tissue. These tumors tend to recur, often as a grade IV.
Grade IV: These are the most malignant tumors. They reproduce rapidly, can have a bizarre appearance when viewed under the microscope, and easily grow into nearby normal brain tissue. These tumors form new blood vessels so they can maintain their rapid growth. They also have areas of dead cells in their centers. The glioblastoma multiforme is the most common example of a grade IV tumor
Tumors can contain more than one grade of cell. The highest, or most malignant, grade of cell determines the grade of the tumor, even if most of the tumor is made up of lowergrade cells.
Signs and symptoms of brain or spinal cord tumors may occur gradually and become worse over time, or they can happen suddenly, such as with a seizure
Tumors in any part of the brain may cause the pressure inside the skull (known as intracranial pressure) to rise. This can be caused by growth of the tumor itself, swelling in the brain, or blockage of the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Increased pressure can lead to general symptoms such as:
Headaches that tend to get worse over time are a common symptom of brain tumors, occurring in about half of patients. (Of course, most headaches are not caused by tumors.)
As many as half of people with brain tumors will have seizures at some point. The type of seizure may depend on where the tumor is. Sometimes this is the first sign of a brain tumor, but fewer than 1 in 10 first seizures are caused by brain tumors.
Brain and spinal cord tumors can often be hard to treat and may require care from a team of different types of doctors. This team is often led by a neurosurgeon, a doctor who uses surgery to treat brain and nervous system tumors. Other doctors on the team may include:
Many other specialists may be involved in your care as well, including physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, psychologists, social workers, rehabilitation specialists, and other health professionals.
Several types of treatment can be used to treat brain and spinal cord tumors, including:
Treatment is based on the type of tumor and other factors, and often more than one type of treatment is used. Doctors plan each person’s treatment individually to give them the best chance of treating the cancer while limiting the side effects as much as possible.
The exact cause of brain tumors is yet unknown. Physicians, therefore, usually cannot explain why one person develops a brain tumor and another does not. However, research has shown that people with certain risk factors (e.g., family history, exposure to radiation or certain other chemicals, coexistence of a disease such as neurofibromatosis) are more likely than others to develop a brain tumor.
Not all patients with brain tumors experience seizures, but some do. If you have never had a seizure, there is a good chance you never will.
There are many different types of seizures. The type of seizure depends on the location of the brain tumor. Some of the more common types of seizures, which usually do not occur with loss of consciousness, include:
Patients who have experienced a seizure are put on antiseizure (antiepileptic) medication. Some of the more common medications used are Dilantin, Keppra, Depakote and Tegretol. Your physician will determine the most appropriate medication and dosage for you.
CT (computed tomography) scan uses an Xray machine linked to a computer to take a series of detailed pictures of the head to reveal any tumors present in the brain. MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) uses magnetism, radio waves and a computer to produce detailed images of the brain. With both CT and MRI, the patient may receive an injection of a special dye to make abnormal brain tissue easier to identify in the pictures.
Generally speaking, CT is used more frequently than MRI because it is more widely available, is less expensive and can be used on patients who cannot undergo MRI including those with cardiac monitors or pacemakers, permanent surgical clips, or any metal fragments within their bodydue to potential problems that may be caused by the magnetic fields. Compared to CT, however, MRI offers the following advantages:
Primary brain tumors arise in brain tissue, whereas metastatic, or secondary, brain tumors start as cancer cells in another part of the body and metastasize, or spread, to the brain through the blood stream. The most common types of tumors that spread to the brain are lung, breast, colon and kidney cancers, as well as malignant melanoma (skin cancer).
Metastatic brain tumors are far more common than primary brain tumors. According to the American Brain Tumor Association, of the 190,000+ Americans diagnosed with a brain tumor each year, slightly more than 40,000 have primary tumors, while the remaining 150,000 have metastatic tumors.
Brain tumors are cancerous in some cases, but not all. Malignant (highgrade) brain tumors contain cancer cells, but benign (lowgrade) brain tumors do not. In very rare cases, some benign brain tumors later develop into cancer.
Two of the most common forms of brain cancer are metastatic brain tumors (cancers that have spread to brain tissue from elsewhere in the body) and glioblastoma multiforme, or GBM (the most aggressive form of gliomasprimary brain tumors arising from glial cells in the brain).
Generally speaking, a benign tumor or condition is not harmful. However, that is not the case with anything growing in the brain, including benign tumors. There is a confined space within the skull, meaning it cannot expand to accommodate a growing tumor. Therefore, as they grow, benign brain tumors have the potential to become life threatening due to pressure on the brain. Fortunately, benign tumors generally grow slowly and rarely grow back after being surgically removed. Depending on the location and size of the tumor, however, benign brain tumors can sometimes be difficult to treat