A network of nerves carries messages back and forth between the brain and the rest of the body. The brain directs the things we choose to do, like walking and talking) and the things our body does without thinking, like breathing. The brain also controls our senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell), as well as our memory, emotions and personality.
When most normal cells grow old or get damaged, they die, and new cells take their place. Sometimes, this process goes wrong. New cells form when the body doesn’t need them, and old or damaged cells don’t die as they should. A buildup of extra cells often forms a mass of tissue called a growth or tumor. When a tumor grows into or presses on an area of the brain or the spinal cord, which connects the brain with nerves in most parts of the body, it may stop part of the brain from working the way it should. Together, the brain and the spinal cord make up the central nervous system (CNS). Tumors of the central nervous system cause symptoms and need treatment.
The symptoms of brain and spinal cord tumors are not the same in every person because they depend on where the tumor begins in the brain, what that part of the brain controls and the size of the tumor. The most common symptoms of brain tumors include:
The most common symptoms of spinal cord tumors include:
It is important to remember that most of the time, these symptoms are caused by other health problems, not tumors. If you have any of these symptoms, please discuss them with your doctor before assuming that you have cancer.
There are no screening tests for cancer of the brain and/or central nervous system. To detect or diagnose these cancers, patients may undergo:
Standard treatments for brain cancer include watchful waiting, surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. You may be eligible for newer treatments, such as biological therapy and targeted therapy, that are being studied in clinical trials. Many people get a combination of treatments. The choice of treatment depends mainly on the following:
Your doctor will describe your treatment choices, the expected results and the possible side effects.