Is it a Benign Brain Tumor?

Benign Brain

The very thought of a tumor diagnosis is enough to send a giant-sized chill down the spine. However when your doctor tells you it’s benign, there is a somewhat mixed feeling of relief as benign tumors are noncancerous growths that do not spread or metastasize to other parts of the body. And the best part is that treatment isn’t always needed for all types of benign tumors; for example, lipomas which are benign tumors of fatty cells don’t really need to be removed unless they are pressing on some nerve or vessel.

So depending on its location, the benign tumor could produce a variety of symptoms and cause abnormal functioning of the affected organ. For instance, if the benign tumor is located in the brain, the patient could experience headaches, vision disturbances or fuzzy memory. Most benign brain tumors are diagnosed on the basis of CT or MRI scan results; these tumors grow slowly and often have clear borderlines that can be visualized on CT scans. However, early detection is always critical to the outcome of the tumor, whether benign or cancerous.

Brain tumors can be classified as being benign based on the microscopic appearance of the abnormally dividing cells. Most benign brain tumors can be surgically excised without complications, with only a few reappearing again after surgery. These tumors only become life-threatening when they have become large enough to compress some part of the brain tissue and nerves, at which point, the term ‘benign’ becomes somewhat redundant. Majority of symptoms associated with benign brain tumors are as a result of compression including vision and hearing problems, change in sense of smell, nausea or vomiting, changes in concentration, memory or speech, headaches or facial paralysis, muscle spasms and jerking, numbness in extremities and loss of balance. Unfortunately many of these symptoms can be associated with other disease conditions too, thus making the right diagnosis a challenge.

The brain tumor is usually named after the tissue from which it arises. Some of the commonly diagnosed benign brain tumors include the meningiomas, which arise from the membranes covering the brain and spine and form about 20% of all brain tumors. Pituitary adenomas arise in the pituitary gland and make up about 8% of all brain tumors. Schwannoma tumors arise in the 8th cranial nerves from the Schwann cells that insulate the nervous system; these account for about 9% of all brain tumors. Numerous other types of benign brain tumors also exist which are rarer.
The exact cause of these benign tumors is unknown but factors like family history, dental x-rays, exposure to certain chemicals, mobiles and power lines have been tossed around.

Treatment protocol for these tumors is based on the patient’s age and health as well as the location and size of the tumor and the extent of symptoms. With advances in surgical techniques, small tumors are usually treated with radiation including the gamma knife and proton beam, as well as traditional craniotomies for microsurgical excision. Surgery for these tumors is very safe with the addition of technologies such as CUSA (cavitron ultrasonic aspirator) and Surgical navigation making them even safer.

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