Brain cancer has become a major killer in the world with diagnosis increasing day by day. Among the minors, it is the major cause of the cancer related deaths as the other types of cancers are hard to be diagnosed in children since they are usually lifestyle related.
It is estimated that, during the year 2000, approximately 359,000 people in the United States of America were living after the diagnosis of a primary brain tumor. This is the prevalence for brain tumors, as opposed to the incidence which reflects the number of people newly diagnosed in a given time period. Note: year 2000 prevalence statistics are the most recent available (ABTA 14).
In most cases adults are the ones who are affected by the disease particularly those aged above 50 years. Unlike other types of cancers (such as lung cancer which is known to be a lifestyle disease), it is hard to relate development of brain tumors to any form of living style though most of the times exposure to radioactive substances can lead to the development.
Brain tumors grow in the brain as expected. When cells (either independently or due to influence of a substance) grow massively and reproduce in an unexplainable way they form a tumor. These fast multiplying cells are either cancerous (malignant) or not cancerous (benign). While in most cases benign tumors are not harmful to the body, malignant cells are cancerous and thus their growths need to be checked. Benign cells have boundaries in the area they affect and are said to be localized and thus they do not spread to other parts of the body and surgery alone can be used for their removal with complete recovery being achieved. In contrast, malignant cells also grow and multiply like the benign cells but their main problem is that they spread to other parts of the body thus they are not localized. Malignant brain tumors are thus life threatening. According to experts brain tumors can be cancerous depending on the type or the location where they are found. For example, if a tumor made of non cancerous cells grows in the sensitive parts of the brain their removal can prove life threatening due to the risk of tampering on the system or infection of other non infected cells. It is worth noting that brain tumors made up of cancerous cells are very dangerous as their effects can also be spread to the spinal chord leading to paralysis. One of the major factors that make brain cancer more dangerous than the other types is the fact that when the disease attacks the brain and the brain is enclosed within a skull which is a bone, its expansion is hindered and this causes increased pressure in the head. The pressure created can destroy the brain and sometimes even cause the blockage of the brain fluid that circulates through the head causing the head to swell. The inbuilt pressure is dangerous as it causes loss of the senses such as sight and hearing and if not checked in its earlier stages, the patient may lose his or her life thus precaution is always needed (ABTA 9).
Classification of Brain Tumors
Brain tumors are classified into four categories, that is, according to the nature of their aggressiveness: grade I and II are considered low grades and are mostly made of the benign cells while those in grades III and IV are described as high grade and are the most aggressive and malignant. Whatever the classification, it is important to note that even low grade brain tumors can cause serious complications such as irreversible paralysis. High grade tumors grow rapidly and require faster and complex treatments such as surgery and chemotherapy to control them in order to avoid their adverse effects on human body.
Disorders Associated With Brain Tumors
The diagnosis with cancer, especially brain tumors come along with different disorders such as anxiety and depression. Some experts have related the disorders with the type of treatment that the victim undergoes. Treatment options such as chemotherapy and the use of steroids have been associated with change in moods. Other than mood change; irritability, anxiety, and panic are also among the commonly seen disorders in the new diagnosed patients (Thompson, Takeshita, Thompson., & Mulligan 412).
Causes and Risk Factors
Experts and doctors in the field of neurosurgery have not been able to pinpoint what really causes the development of brain tumors although both genetic and environmental factors have been attributed as some of the factors which could cause its development. In trying to understand the brain tumors, scientists have thus identified the causes and the risks as under environment and genetic factors. For example, under the environmental factors exposure to radioactive substances, using of certain substances such as the cigarettes, and abusing of alcohol have been described as the major causes. The genetic factors have been classified as both inborn mutations and susceptibilities (ABTA 24).
While genes go about their duties in the normal way, sometimes abnormal growth or inactive growth may occur within the abnormal gene. Once these genes are found in the brain this may be the onset of brain tumor development in ones body. Recent studies have also shown that children who are exposed to mobile phones usage before the age of 20 are more likely to suffer from malignant brain tumors (West 1). As West quotes Dr Carpenter;
“The evidence, as I see it, is sufficiently strong that there needs to be public warnings, there needs to be establishments of exposure guidelines and that the present guidelines – in Canada, the United States or anywhere else – are not protective of human health”. (1)
The aims of the above strong sentiments were to reduce the exposure to radioactive radiations and electromagnetic waves that may harm the brain. However, the above conclusion from the above study conflicts other done in other regions such as the one that was carried out in the United Kingdom by Leeds University and conducted across thirteen countries that showed that there was no evidence that the increased exposure to usage of cell phones radioactive frequencies could be a cause to brain tumor attacks (Gould 1). Gould further claims that the study was consistent with other previously done studies which showed no relationship between exposure to cell phone radiation and brain tumors development. This shows more studies need to be conducted in order to understand whether there really exist a relationship between cell phones and brain tumors before over reactive precautions can be taken.
From the study, we can conclude that the cause of tumor development in the brains is not well understood as it is hard to pinpoint certain factors as being the major causes. Thus, more studies need to be done to understand what really causes tumor development in the brain. Meanwhile, preventive measures through reducing exposures to factors that may be known to cause brain tumors (e.g. radioactive substances) should be taken into consideration.
ABTA. “A Primer of Brain Tumors: A Patient’s Reference Manual. 8th Edition.” American Brain Tumor Association, 2004. Web.
Gould, Paula. “No link between cell phones and brain cancer.” futurity.org, 2010. Web.
Thompson, Diane; Takeshita Junji; Thompson Todd., & Mulligan Meagan. “Selecting Antiepileptic Drugs for Symptomatic Patients with Brain Tumors.” The Journal of Supportive Oncology. Vol. 4: 411- 416, 2006.
West, Larry. “Study Links Brain Cancer to Children Using Cell Phones.” About.com, 2009. Web.