Brain cancer is a tumor or tumors that form on the brain itself. Most brain tumors have spread to the brain from other affected parts of the body (such as the breast or the lung) via the blood-stream. Only a small percentage of brain cancer cases originate in the brain.
In its early stages, brain cancer often produces no symptoms, or it displays symptoms that are mistaken for everyday headaches. As a result, the condition is often quite advanced before it is detected. Brain cancer is a very serious condition that can cause extensive neurological damage or death.
The exact cause of brain cancer is unknown, but heredity is suspected to play a role in its development.
Signs and Symptoms
Brain cancer is usually asymptomatic until the tumor reaches a certain size. At that point, symptoms include:
General weakness, or localized weakness in the arms or legs
Loss of coordination
Change in personality
Loss of mental abilities, including memory
Double vision, or loss of vision
Conventional Medical Treatment
If you suspect you have a brain tumor, see a physician immediately. A CAT scan or MRI of the head can usually confirm the presence of a tumor and pinpoint its location. If a tumor is found, the physician may take a CAT scan of the chest and abdomen to make sure the cancer has not affected other areas of the body. If the tumor is localized and is situated in an area where removal is possible (on the outer surface of the brain, for example), surgery may be performed. However, some tumors-particularly those located deep within the brain tissue-cannot be operated on. In these cases, radiation and chemotherapy will be used to destroy cancerous cells. (See “Conventional Medical Treatment” in the “Bladder Cancer” entry for more information on radiation and chemotherapy.)
Complementary and Alternative Treatments
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Acupressure By pressing on certain acupressure points along the body’s meridians, a practitioner may be able to reduce cancer-related pain and headaches.
Chinese Herbal Therapy Traditional Chinese Medicine considers any type of tumor formation the result of stagnant blood, so a practitioner may recommend formulas that energize blood flow and strengthen the immune system, such as Ginseng and Astragals Formula. In cases of brain cancer, an herbalist may prescribe the Chinese formula called Three Yellows.