By Penelope A. Domogo, MD
“Tumor” means an abnormal growth anywhere in the body so brain tumor means an abnormal growth in the brain. This abnormal growth is a mass of abnormal cells. Brain tumors can be noncancerous (benign) or cancerous. They can begin in the brain (primary brain tumors) or the cancer can begin in another part of the body which then spreads to the brain as secondary (metastatic) brain tumor.
Symptoms of brain tumor depends on its location, size and rate of growth. You see, our brain controls all of our body’s functions. There are various body functions and each has its own control center in the brain. For example, the control center of our physical movements is in a location different from the control center of our vision.
General signs and symptoms caused by brain tumors may include: (from mayoclinic.org)
– New onset or change of pattern of headaches
– Headaches that gradually become more frequent and more severe
– Unexplained nausea or vomiting
– Vision problems, such as blurred vision, double vision or loss of peripheral vision
– Gradual loss of sensation or movement in an arm or a leg
– Difficulty with balance
– Speech difficulties like slurring
– Feeling very tired
– Confusion in everyday matters
– Difficulty making decisions
– Inability to follow simple commands
– Personality or behavior changes (can be subtle)
– Seizures, especially in someone who doesn’t have a history of seizures
– Hearing problems
From studies here and abroad, the risk factors for brain tumors are the same for other tumors in other parts of the body. Cancer and other abnormal growths even if not cancerous were rare in the past. Thus the change in lifestyle, especially diet, in this modern world is the major factor in the increasing numbers of brain tumors. Exposure to radiation is pointed to as another risk factor, like exposure to atomic bombs and leaks from nuclear plants. Again this risk factor is a result of modern technological advances. See how double-edged modern-day technology can be.
How is brain tumor diagnosed? Through a neurological examination by a doctor who tests your vision, hearing, reflexes, etc. Then a CT scan (computed tomography) and/or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to “see” the brain. These are like special x-rays of the brain. Then a biopsy is done to see if the tumor is cancerous or not.
What then is the treatment?
The treatment of brain tumors depends on the type of the tumor, size, location and overall health and preference of the patient. Some tumors can be treated with surgery alone and the tumor is taken out. Or surgery may be combined with radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy. Usual after-effects of these treatment modalities are neurological deficits thus the need for rehabilitation like physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy, and for children, they will need tutorials.
Complementary medicine like prayer and meditation, acupuncture, yoga, art therapy, music therapy, can greatly aid in the healing process.
There are cases in our locality who have been successfully treated of their primary brain tumor, even if cancerous. Secondary brain tumors, though, are much more difficult to deal with as these mean that the cancer has spread all over the body.
Just like any disease, prevention of brain tumor is much better than cure. Since we know that our modern-day western lifestyle is a risk factor for all diseases, it is logical that we adopt a healthy simple lifestyle in a healthy environment if we want to remain healthy. For us Igorots, we just reclaim our indigenous lifestyle which has nurtured and sustained our ancestors throughout the past.***
“But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” Hebrews 5:14