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