Did you know that there are over 120 types of brain and central nervous system tumors? These tumors can be malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous) and in either case, can be life threatening. They form in different areas, develop from different cell types and have different treatment options.
Here are seven facts you need to know about brain tumors:
1. One third of all brain tumors are malignant.
Of the nearly 80,000 brain tumors diagnosed in the U.S. each year, approximately 1/3 of them are considered malignant or cancerous. Primary malignant brain tumors are those tumors that start in the brain. In adults, secondary brain tumors—meaning they have metastasized, or spread, to the brain from other parts of the body such as the lungs, breasts or colon—are much more common than primary tumors.
2. The lifetime risk of developing a malignant brain tumor is less than 1%.
Malignant brain tumors are rare. Overall, the chance that a person will develop a malignant tumor of the brain or spinal cord in his or her lifetime is less than 1% (about 1 in 150 for men and 1 in 185 for women)
3. No one knows the exact cause of brain tumors.
Most people diagnosed with a brain tumor do not have known risk factors. However, certain risk factors and genetic conditions have been shown to increase a person’s chances of developing one,including:
The risk of a brain tumor increases as you age.
People who have been exposed to ionizing radiation—such as radiation therapy used to treat cancer and radiation exposure caused by atomic bombs– have an increased risk of brain tumor.
Rare genetic disorders like Von Hippel-Lindau disease, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, and Neurofibromatosis (NF1 and NF2) may raise the risk of developing certain types of brain tumors. Otherwise, there is little evidence that brain cancer runs in families.
4. Brain tumors don’t typically have obvious symptoms.
Headaches that get worse over time can be a symptom of many conditions including brain tumors. Other symptoms can include personality changes, eye weakness, nausea or vomiting, difficulty speaking or comprehending and short-term memory loss. Even benign or non-cancerous tumors can be serious and life threatening. If you experience any of
these symptoms, speak with your doctor right away.
5. Brain tumors can occur at any age.
Primary brain tumors—those that begin in the brain—can develop at any age, but they are most common in children and older adults. While brain tumors are one of the most common cancersoccurring in children 0-14 years, the average age of diagnosis is 59 years.
6. Survival rates vary.
Survival after diagnosis with a brain tumor varies significantly by age, tumor type, location and molecular markers. Some types of brain cancer, such as meningioma, anaplastic ependymoma and oligodendroglioma, are highly treatable, while others are less responsive to treatment.
One of the most important things that you can do is to seek care and a second opinion by people that spend all of their time treating brain cancer.
7. There have only been 4 FDA-approved drugs—and one device— to treat brain tumors in the past 30 years.
For many tumor types, surgery and radiation remain the standard of care. Chemotherapy or targeted treatments may also be prescribed.
However, more effective treatments are desperately needed. Today’s researchers are focused on dramatically improve outcomes for patients with brain cancer and all cancers.
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