Brain Cancer

Cancer is currently the second leading cause of deaths in the United States, with the estimated number of cancer-attributed deaths in 2010 coming close to 600 thousand. It is only behind heart disease in terms of this statistics with the difference being less than 40 thousand cases, yet cancer has claimed four times as many lives as the third cause in the list, chronic lower pulmonary respiratory disease.

Cancer is a general term referring to uncontrolled mutation of normal tissue, and its growth throughout one’s body. Further complicating the situation is the fact that cancer may begin in one tissue, yet experience rapid growth and quickly spread to other tissues, making the treatment very difficult and leaving the patient with very limited options. However, certain types of cancers may be more dangerous than others, due to the type of tissue affected. One of such types is brain cancer, which currently has a 5 year survival rate estimated at approximately 35%.

When discussing brain cancer it is important to remember that there are may be many subtypes of this condition, and not every brain tumor is the same. Furthermore, with the brain being by far the most complicated of human organs, the survival rates as well as the course of treatment may be strictly dependent on the area of the brain affected by the tumor. As is the case for all other tumors, there are benign types as well which do not contain growing cancer cells and pose far lower risk to the affected individual.

However, these tumors may eventually become malignant, so it is very important to still undergo proper treatment. There are also many different types of malignant brain tumors, with their classification being split into primary and secondary tumors depending on whether they have originated in the brain itself, or have spread from other cancer-affected tissues and organs. The most common primary type of brain cancer is referred to brain stem glioma, and often manifests itself in young children and young adults. Due to the location of the malignant tumor, as well as its rapid growth rate, this type of tumor is very dangerous and very difficult to treat.

The two main factors that affect both the available treatment options as well as the average survival rate are the location of the tumor and its size. For brain stem glioma cancers, the available methods of medical treatment are surgery, chemo and radiotherapy, and spinal fluid diversion. However, often the tumor may become too large for surgery, necessitating a full course of chemotherapy or radiotherapy before other methods can again be considered. The cerebrospinal fluid diversion may also be used to lower the chances of the cancer spreading to other internal organs. Ultimately, due to the higher risk such brain tumors pose, it is important to diagnose early and begin the course of treatment as soon as possible.