Meningiomas, the medical term for brain tumors, are a very serious medical condition. Diagnosis usually begins with a neurological exam. During the exam, the neurologist checks vision, hearing, balance, coordination and reflexes. Depending on the results, other tests may be recommended.
The symptoms of a meningioma include headaches, problems with memory and concentration, personality changes, vision problems such as blurred or double vision, gradual loss of sensation or movement in an arm or leg, loss of balance or hearing, difficulty swallowing, drowsiness, seizures and a decreased sense of smell. As tumors may develop and grow quickly, it is extremely important to seek medical attention when experiencing any of these symptoms.
Upon diagnosis, a CT scan, MRI scan, angiogram, x-rays and/or a biopsy may be performed. A computerized tomography (CT) scan uses a sophisticated X-ray machine linked to a computer to produce detailed, two-dimensional images of the brain. The patient lies still on a movable table that’s guided into what looks like an enormous doughnut where the images are taken. A special dye may be injected into the bloodstream after a few CT scans are taken. The dye helps make tumors more visible on X-ray. A CT scan is painless and generally takes less than 10 minutes. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan uses magnetic fields to generate images of the brain. The patient lies inside a cylindrical machine for approximately an hour. MRI scans are particularly useful in diagnosing brain tumors because they outline the normal brain structures in great detail. Sometimes a special dye is injected into the bloodstream during the procedure (MRI angiogram). The dye can help distinguish tumors from healthy tissue. An angiogram involves injecting a special dye into the arteries that go to the brain. The dye, which flows through the blood vessels in the brain, can be seen on X-ray. This test helps locate blood vessels in and around a brain tumor. MRI angiograms can often be done in place of this test. An X-ray of the head can show alterations in skull bones that could indicate a tumor. It can also show calcium deposits, which are sometimes associated with brain tumors. A biopsy is usually required to diagnose a brain tumor and confirm its type. In a biopsy, a piece of tumor is removed for examination under a microscope. A biopsy can be performed separately or as part the surgery to remove the tumor.
Treatment involves surgically removing the tumor. Sometimes chemotherapy and radiotherapy may also be necessary.
A tumor is defined as a swelling or lesion that is formed by abnormal cell growth. Specifically, new cells are generated in the body prior to the old cells dying which causes an extra mass of cells called a tumor. Tumors serve no useful purpose to the body and generally exist at the expense of the body’s health. Most commonly tumors are used synonymously with cancer. This in fact is false as there are three types of tumors: benign, pre malignant and malignant; and cancer, by definition, is malignant. A recent publication by MedicinePlus discusses the main differences between the three types of tumors and offers commonly overlooked risks of benign tumors.