Are you having back pain with any of the following?

  • Severe pain, weakness or tingling in your leg(s).
  • Difficulty stopping urination or loss of control of bladder or bowels.
  • Unexplained fever, nausea or vomiting.
  • A history of cancer or unexplained weight loss.

We understand that you are experiencing one or more of the health issues that might be impacting your back pain.

We recommend that you discuss these health issues with your doctor before proceeding with this program.

Once you are cleared by your doctor to do this program, we hope it helps you find relief from your back pain.

Overview

The brain is a spongy mass of tissue that:  

  • Controls every function of the body, including breathing, thought, movement, and much more. 
  • Connects to the spinal cord. 

Together, the brain and spinal cord form the central nervous system. This complex network of nerves sends and receives messages between the brain and the rest of the body. It can tell your: 

  • Heart to beat 
  • Muscles to move

Abnormal cells may collect in the brain, forming a mass called a tumor. Cancerous (malignant) brain tumors grow quickly. 

  • A primary brain tumor starts in the brain. Although primary brain tumors don’t typically spread to other parts of the body, they can spread throughout the brain and spinal cord.
  • A secondary (metastatic) brain tumor is cancer that develops in a different part of the body (such as lung or breast cancer) and spreads to the brain. 

Brain tumors are grouped by cell type or the part of the brain where they develop. The most common types of primary brain tumors are glioma and meningioma.

Treatment options usually include: 

  • Surgery 
  • Radiation therapy 
  • Radiosurgery 
  • Chemotherapy 
  • Targeted therapy

We know it’s overwhelming to be diagnosed with a brain tumor. We’re here to provide skilled treatment and support for you. 

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Types

Glioma brain tumors start in glial cells that support nerve cells and hold brain tissue together. There are several common types of glioma brain tumors.

Astrocytoma starts from cells that hold nerve cells in place and help them function properly. 

  • Low-grade tumors (astrocytomas) grow slowly. 
  • Grade III tumors (also astrocytomas) grow rapidly. 
  • Grade IV tumors (glioblastomas) are the fastest growing.

Oligodendroglioma starts in cells that make a fatty substance to insulate and protect nerves. These tumors are usually grade II or grade III. 

Meningiomas are usually slow-growing brain tumors. However, they can cause problems as they grow. 

  • Meningiomas form in the thin layers of tissue that cover the brain and spinal cord (meninges). 
  • The majority are slow-growing and potentially curable with surgery.
  • A small percentage of these tumors are higher-grade and aggressive.

It’s important to understand the risks and symptoms of a brain tumor so we can find it early, when treatment is most effective.

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Risk Factors

Having one or more risk factors does not mean you’ll develop a brain tumor. Most people develop a tumor despite having no risk factors. 

Although we don’t know the exact cause of brain tumors, certain factors can increase your risk, such as: 

  • Exposure to radiation. Radiation therapy to the head, either as treatment for another cancer or for other reasons, may increase the risk of developing a brain tumor years later.
  • Family history. Although rare, brain tumors may be linked to genetic factors found in some families.

Despite much research and debate, studies have not proven a link between cell phone use and brain tumors.

Symptoms

It’s important to know the possible signs of a brain tumor so we can evaluate your symptoms early on.

Symptoms depend on the size, type, and location of the tumor. Some symptoms may be caused when the tumor puts pressure on the brain or spinal cord. Others can result when a specific part of the brain doesn’t function properly. 

The most common symptoms are:

  • Headaches (typically worse in the morning)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Changes in speech and hearing
  • Problems with balance or walking
  • Changes in mood and behavior
  • Seizures 
  • Memory problems 

While these symptoms occur in people with brain tumors, they may also be caused by other health problems. Contact us if you experience any of these symptoms.

Diagnosis

To diagnose a brain tumor, we’ll:

  • Take your medical history.
  • Learn about your symptoms. 
  • Perform a neurological exam. This tests your reflexes, vision, hearing, coordination, muscle strength, and alertness. 

We may order tests, such as: 

  • CT or MRI scan, to view the brain. This imaging helps us see a tumor and its location.
  • Angiogram, which uses a special dye and an X-ray to see if blood vessels are feeding into a tumor.
  • Spinal tap (lumbar puncture), to see if the cancer has spread to the liquid around the brain and spinal cord (cerebrospinal fluid). 
  • Biopsy, which involves removing a small amount of cancerous tissue from the brain. We’ll examine the tissue under a microscope to see if it’s benign or malignant and learn its exact type.
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Staging

A brain tumor is given a grade, based on how the tumor cells look under a microscope. This important information helps us:

  • Predict how quickly the tumor will grow.
  • Choose the best treatment plan for you.

Our experts (neuropathologists) use World Health Organization data to evaluate brain tumor tissue and classify it.

Treatment

Treatment options usually include: 

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Radiosurgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy

After diagnostic tests confirm the type and grade of the brain tumor, we’ll talk about the best treatment options. Together, we’ll develop a plan that’s right for you. 

For example, we may surgically remove a noncancerous (benign) tumor. This type rarely spreads to nearby healthy brain tissue. However, they’re still considered potentially serious. They can press against important areas of the brain and cause problems.

Additional References:

Follow-Up Care

After completing treatment, we’ll develop a plan for follow-up care. We’ll closely monitor the tumor using advanced imaging, lab tests, and other methods. We’ll also help you cope with potential long-term effects of treatment.

Attending all follow-up appointments is important. They may include: 

  • Physical examinations
  • Neurological examinations
  • Imaging (MRI, CT, PET, other)
  • Other medical tests

Because a brain tumor and its treatment can affect brain function, you may need rehabilitation therapy from a: 

  • Physical therapist, to help you regain balance and strength.
  • Speech therapist, to improve speech, swallowing, and expressing thoughts.
  • Occupational therapist, to help you return to daily activities, such as eating, dressing, and bathing.

Your survivorship plan also includes: 

  • Eating a healthy diet.
  • Avoiding or quitting smoking.
  • Getting regular physical activity.
  • Getting support from a social worker or support group to help you cope, when needed.

Be sure to link to our online support group for those with brain cancer and their caregivers.

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