The brain is a vital organ and part of the central nervous system, it carries out many vital functions and controls actions of the body.
Brain cancer can affect any part of the brain and there are two types of tumours that can occur in the brain called benign and malignant tumours. Both may disrupt the brain and hinder it from functioning properly. For this reason, it is crucial to seek and receive treatment as soon as possible.
Benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous) tumours are graded on their ability to grow and come back after treatment. To determine suitable treatment for a brain tumour, a consultant oncologist would need information on where the tumour began, how far it has spread, and if it is benign or malignant.
A benign tumour is a non-cancerous mass of cells. These tumours are usually slow-growing and less likely to spread to other parts of the body. It can cause difficulties and symptoms, so its progress must be monitored through regular scans. If the tumour is in the brain, it can push areas of the brain aside and cause symptoms. It is easier to treat the tumour while it is small. For this reason, it is important to detect and treat the tumour early.
Malignant tumours (Cancerous)
A malignant tumour is cancerous and can grow more rapidly in some cases. This type of tumour can spread to other parts of the body.
Symptoms caused by a brain tumour can depend on where in the brain it is situated and the rate at which it is growing. Some people may feel minimal symptoms, whereas others may struggle to manage them.
The most common symptom is a headache, but usually, other additional symptoms will present. Here are some common symptoms that may be experienced:
- Headaches, sickness, vomiting and seizures – caused by a brain tumour an increased pressure on the skull
- Problems with movement or speech
- Changes to how you feel, see or hear
- Irregular periods, infertility, weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes or mood swings – caused by a change in hormone levels
If you experience any of the above symptoms that aren’t normal for you, contact your GP who can refer you for further investigations.
Often people will experience symptoms and see their GP. If your GP thinks you’re experiencing symptoms as a result of a brain tumour, they will arrange for you to have a brain scan and may send you to a neurologist for further tests.
Ways a brain tumour can be diagnosed:
- Brain scans
- Physical examination – such as checking your chest, abdomen and hearing
- Checking behind your eye – by shining a light at the back of your eye, to see if there is any swelling, which can indicate increased pressure in the skull
- Neurological examination – including checks that test your movement, coordination, reflexes, thinking and memory.
Treating brain cancer with proton beam therapy
Proton beam therapy can be a safer choice of treatment for many brain tumours. Both benign and malignant brain tumours that originate within the brain require their growth to be controlled. Timely treatment is the key in achieving a good outcome. Proton beam therapy can be given before or after surgery and alongside chemotherapy.
Benefits of treating brain cancer with proton beam therapy
As the brain is made up of delicate soft tissue, so it is vital to avoid radiation to surrounding healthy tissue. Proton beam therapy can be an ideal treatment for brain tumours, as the brain has many areas that carry out different functions that are close to one another. Using proton beam therapy to avoid radiation dose to healthy tissue in the brain can also help reduce long-term side effects.
Proton beam therapy is suitable for tumours which are:
- Located near sensitive areas of the brain
- A recurrent tumour which has come back after treatment
- Early-stage tumours which have not spread to other areas
Further information & support
Being diagnosed with brain cancer and deciding on the best treatment can be daunting, for full details on brain cancer treatment options or to discuss a diagnosis, please contact our enquiries team. Our enquiries team will endeavour to help you assess your treatment options and advise which consultants could be best placed on planning your treatment pathway.
Macmillan Cancer Support https://www.macmillan.org.uk/
Last reviewed: 30 November 2016
Chemotherapy for the brain may be limited in some cases due to the blood-brain barrier.