Guide To The Symptoms Of Brain Cancer

August 15, 2023

Brain cancer is a malignancy that begins in the cells of an individual's brain tissues. These tissues include the cells that make up the membranes, blood vessels, and bones that surround or are inside of the brain. Secondary brain cancer can occur when a malignancy that begins in another part of an individual's body spreads to the tissues in their brain. Common types of brain cancer include gliomas, meningiomas, pituitary adenomas, medulloblastomas, CNS lymphomas, and vestibular schwannomas. Certain factors can increase the risk of developing brain cancer, including certain genetic factors, HIV infection, cigarette smoking, exposure to certain environmental toxins, and radiation exposure to the head. Brain cancer is diagnosed using a contrast CT scan, blood tests, MRIs, urine tests, and tissue biopsy. Treatment methods for brain cancer depend on the tumor stage, tumor location, and the patient's prognosis.

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Clumsiness And Difficulty Walking

Difficulty walking and clumsiness are some of the more common symptoms that occur in a brain cancer patient because several parts of the brain have to work together to perform such functions. A cancerous tumor growing in or around an individual's cerebellum in the brain can cause them to lose function of their fine motor skills. This loss of function causes them to be more clumsy than usual when handling objects and performing tasks with their hands.

A cancerous tumor that presses on or develops in the cerebellum can also cause the patient to experience problems with keeping their balance. Because balance is required for an individual to walk normally, this malfunction manifests as difficulty walking. An individual who is having trouble walking and is more clumsy than usual may be affected by a brain tumor pressing on or inside of their brain stem, temporal lobe, or occipital lobe. Abnormalities in these parts of the brain can cause the patient to have vision changes that affect their ability to walk and perform tasks requiring fine motor skills.

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Chronic Headaches

Chronic headaches that occur in individuals affected by a cancerous brain tumor exhibit certain characteristics that can help distinguish them from an everyday migraine. A brain tumor precipitated headache is one that comes on strong and fast, rather than a headache that gradually increases in severity over several hours. A brain tumor is more likely to cause an affected individual to wake up from sleep at night and in the morning with a headache. Headaches that fluctuate in pain severity when the patient moves or changes their body position is more indicative of a brain tumor than those that do not. Headache pain that does not effectively respond to medication like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or acetylsalicylic acid can be indicative of a cancerous brain tumor. Headaches caused by brain tumors are also more likely to last for days or even weeks at a time. Headaches accompanied by vision changes, seizures, speech problems, unilateral weakness, and personality changes are of greater concern when it comes to the possibility of brain cancer.

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A seizure is a medical event where a patient's brain experiences a sudden and uncontrollable electrical perturbation. During a seizure, an affected individual experiences alterations in their level of consciousness, movements, feelings, and behavior. The majority of seizures have a duration of around two minutes or less. Several different types of seizures may occur due to brain cancer, including grand mal, myoclonic, sensory, and complex partial seizures. A seizure can be caused by any mechanism in a patient that causes the interruption of normal nerve cell connections in their brain. This abnormal electrical activity that occurs in the brain of a patient is somewhat similar to an electrical storm. Seizures are more common in individuals who have a cancerous tumor growing in their meninges or cerebral lobes. The effects of an individual's seizure depend on the part of the brain the tumor is affecting. Everyone who has a seizure precipitated from a brain tumor will have a different experience.

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Weakness describes when an individual is unable to produce a muscle movement with their greatest effort to do so. It is not the same as fatigue, as their causes differ despite somewhat similar results. Weakness occurs when the nerve impulse from the brain and spinal cord does not reach the muscles in the affected limb or region of the body. The muscles do not contract without an indication from the brain to do so. Therefore, less effective or partial impulses make it to the muscles in the affected area and produce a minimal movement with great exertion of effort.

Malignant brain tumors that form in the cerebellum and or frontal lobe of an individual's brain can cause problems with the communication of nerves in the affected region. The nerves may become compressed or damaged from the effects of the tumor, causing them to be unable to relay the signal down the spinal cord and to the intended muscle to produce movement. Weakness that occurs on one side of an individual's body is more characteristic in brain cancer than weakness in both sides of the body.

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Speech Difficulties

Brain tumors that form in the temporal and frontal lobe of an individual's cerebrum are most likely to produce problems with their speech and communication skills with others. The frontal lobe in an individual's brain has a high involvement in the production of language, as is the left hemisphere of the brain. Many patients who have a cancerous brain tumor in these areas of the brain experience stuttering or slurring of their speech. If the part of the brain responsible for the activation of certain muscles that create sound when an individual speaks is affected by the tumor, they will have trouble with their speech. A brain tumor can cause an obstruction in the impulses that flow through the nerves that connect the area of speech formation to the area that tells the muscles to express the speech. A malfunction in this connection causes the patient to experience problems with their speech. A tumor can affect the brain in the areas responsible for an individual's speech by the pressure it places on the structures and by the tissue swelling that occurs around it.

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Double Or Blurred Vision

Brain cancer can produce double or blurred vision in several different ways. It can cause the overall pressure inside of a patient's skull to increase, which can cause their optic disc to become swollen. The optic disc is the part of the eye where the optic nerve enters the brain from the eye, and vision changes occur when the optic disc swells and compresses the optic nerve. Another way brain cancer can cause blurry or double vision is by the accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain that places too much pressure on the cranial nerves. One of the cranial nerves is the optic nerve, which can become impaired by excessive pressure from too much fluid. An individual who has blurry or double vision as a result of brain cancer most likely has a tumor in the occipital lobe, brain stem, or cerebellum.

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Issues With Memory Or Concentration

Memory is a cognitive function characterized by an individual's ability to absorb, store, and recall information at a later time. There are three different stages to the process of memory in the brain, including encoding, storage, and recollection. Brain cancer in the temporal lobe or frontal lobe of the brain can disrupt one or more of these stages, causing memory problems. Concentration describes an individual's ability to focus on the task they have at hand and complete it. An individual who has brain cancer in the frontal lobe of their brain may be unable to finish tasks they have started, become distracted easily, have problems with controlling their impulses, have issues doing one thing at a time, and may not be able to pay attention to a conversation, movie, lecture, and many other things.

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Nausea And Vomiting

Nausea is a sensation in the back of the throat or stomach that can cause individuals to feel the need to vomit. Nausea and vomiting due to brain cancer tend to be regular occurrences and are often accompanied by headaches, dizziness, or lightheadedness. Some individuals who experience nausea and vomiting due to brain cancer may be woken up at night by these symptoms. There are several ways brain cancer can cause nausea and vomiting. If cancer in the brain is compressing parts of the inner ear, an individual can experience problems with their balance and orientation that lead to nausea and vomiting. When cancer in the brain causes slowed digestive function, it can allow bacteria to grow in the digestive tract that causes nausea and vomiting. A tumor that directly impacts a part of the brain called the nausea center can also produce nausea and vomiting.

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Change In Headaches

Headaches can be caused by several factors, and most are not associated with brain cancer. However, there are certain characteristics of headaches that can indicate the possibility of brain cancer. Headaches that come on fast and strong are more common with brain cancer than those that come on slow. A headache associated with position changes is more common in individuals with brain cancer than a headache that remains constant in all positions. A headache that wakes an individual up in the middle of the night is also more common with brain cancer than a headache that does not interfere with sleep. Another red flag individuals should look out for with respect to headache changes is when their headache does not improve by taking the usual measures that usually help alleviate it.

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Hearing Issues

Hearing issues, a rare category of symptoms, occur with malignant brain tumors and are more common with benign tumors in the brain. An individual who has hearing problems caused by brain cancer may frequently misunderstand what others are saying, miss parts of a conversation, ask others to repeat themselves frequently, and play music or television at an unusually high volume. Brain cancer can produce swelling in the brain due to the buildup of excess fluid and other mechanisms that can put pressure on the auditory nerve. The auditory nerve is the nerve that carries information about what an individual hears from the inner ear to the brain so it can be processed and interpreted. Brain cancer can also produce hearing issues by causing a type of hearing loss that occurs when sounds are not able to move from the outer ear into the inner ear. A cancerous brain tumor can cause the canal from the inner ear to the outer ear to become obstructed, producing hearing issues.

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