Intracranial tumors can be either benign or malignant. In adults, they are located mainly above the tentorium, part of a membrane separating the brain above the cerebellum and below. Among the benign tumors that are usually located outside the brain tissue itself, there are essentially developed schwannomas coming from a particular cell type, Schwann cells, and meningiomas developed the meninges, one of three membranes covering and protecting the brain. Malignant tumors, or cancers of the brain, are also of various natures, but they are located more willingly in the brain parenchyma. In all cases, a tumor found in the brain often causes similar signs not initially used to define the benign or malignant tumor. Even if imaging helps point towards a certain origin, the removal or biopsy of the tumor is necessary to make a diagnosis.
The symptoms related to the development of a tumor in the brain are explained by the increase in pressure in the skull, which is inextensible. Symptoms include:
- headache increased by stress and typically more severe in the morning;
- vomiting, often defined as projectile;
- double or blurred vision.
Sometimes the tumor may be discovered before it had generated the symptoms, since the tumor gradually affects various mechanisms: it is however imaging that will help discover the tumor.
The diagnosis of a brain tumor is made with the completion of a brain imaging scan or, more often, an MRI. Depending on the type of tumor suspected, a staging will be done, looking for a possible migration of cancer cells. If the staging is negative, then the tumor is suspected as primitive, and a biopsy is needed to study its nature.
If the tumor is not cancerous, it will be surgically removed if it is in an area accessible to surgery. For cancers of the brain, there are three main options: chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy. Chemotherapy involves taking drugs that will destroy cancer cells. It can be used in addition to radiotherapy before surgery to facilitate the operation, or after the latter to destroy the remaining tumor cells. Surgery involves removing the tumor. Radiation therapy uses rays to destroy cancer cells.
It is not possible to prevent cancers of the brain insofar as their origin remains unknown to this day. However, brain tumors are, for a good part of them, secondary to another cancer, which means that if a cancer is detected and treated early, the chances of it spreading to the brain are reduced.