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Brain tumours(benign): Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About brain tumours (benign)

Brain tumour results from the abnormal growth of cells in the central nervous system which constitutes the brain and spinal cord. It may be malignant or benign. Malignant tumours are cancerous, rapidly growing and potentially life-threatening whereas benign tumours are non-cancerous and slow growing in nature. Some types of benign brain tumours are meningioma, acoustic neuroma and pituitary tumour.

Brain tumours (benign): Meningioma: Incidence, Age and Sex

Benign brain tumours are frequently encountered worldwide with a high incidence in the adult population. Children are very seldom affected.

Signs and symptoms of brain tumours (benign): Diagnosis

Benign tumours are generally not fatal but they may result in fatal consequences if the tumour growth compresses significant parts in the brain. Very occasionally, benign brain tumours may become malignant. Different types of benign brain tumours are meningioma, acoustic neuroma and pituitary tumour. Clinical features differ from tumour to tumour.

Meningioma is the tumour of membranes lining the brain and its features include headache, nausea, vomiting, fits, hemiparesis, speech problems, loss of memory, vision impairment, gait incoordination or loss of sense of smell. Pituitary tumour is a benign growth in a small gland located in the brain, resulting in various hormonal effects. Visual impairment may also occur if the pituitary tumour compresses the optic nerve which carries information between the eyes and the brain. Acoustic neuroma is a benign tumour of the schwann cells which surround the nerve communicating between the ears and the brain. This tumour may result in deafness or vertigo.

It is advisable to consult a neurologist if one encounters such features. Comprehensive neurological examination, investigations like CT scans, MRI scans and biopsies will help in detecting the presence, location and type of tumour.

Causes and prevention of brain tumours (benign)

The cause of development of benign brain tumours is not known. No risk factors or triggers have been documented to predispose to benign brain tumours. But it has been postulated that a genetic disorder, ‘neurofibromatosis’ or exposure to high energy radiation beams may play a possible role in developing such tumours.

Brain tumours (benign): Complications

Benign brain tumours may affect functions of whole body. Features like loss of vision or impairment of the thought process or serious behavioural changes and deafness may be seen in some individuals.

Brain tumours (benign): Treatment

It is recommended to consult a neurologist and oncologist to discuss the effective management of benign brain tumours. The treatment constitutes surgical removal of the tumour which is the mainstay of the treatment. Radiotherapy including stereotactic radiosurgery may be considered when surgery is not possible. Stereotactic radiosurgery is used for surgically inaccessible tumours wherein radiowaves are delivered at precise points. Benign tumour of the brain is surgically removed if it is in an accessible position and this approach is combined with radiotherapy which helps in shrinking the tumour. Chemotherapy does not play much role in management of brain tumours. Medications like steroids are advisable for reducing the raised intracranial pressure and alleviating symptoms. Benign brain tumours have good prognosis after treatment, though relapses may occur in future.