Understanding the basics of brain tumours

May is Brain Tumour Awareness Month. Read on to find out more about these tumours.

There are over 120 different types of brain tumours. Some are malignant, which means that they grow quickly and invade healthy brain tissue. Glioblastoma is one example of a malignant tumour. It is actually the most common type of primary malignant tumours in Canada. A tumour is called primary when it develops in the brain. Metastatic tumours, on the other hand, are caused by metastases originating from tumours elsewhere in the body (e.g. a tumour in the liver or lungs).

Other tumours are called benign because they don’t grow (or very little) and don’t spread to the rest of the brain. However, they are not necessarily harmless, since they can press on sensitive areas of the brain and cause physical or intellectual problems, or even death.

Brain tumours are the leading cause of cancer deaths in children and people under the age of 20, causing even more deaths than acute lymphoblastic leukemia. They are also the leading cause of cancer deaths in adults between the ages of 30 and 39.

Treating brain tumours is very complex. It can be difficult or downright impossible to remove them surgically, due to their position in the brain. Moreover, it is difficult to get medication to the affected area, because the brain is protected by a sort of barrier. This barrier is a lifesaver when protecting the brain from other diseases, but it complicates medical treatments when it becomes necessary to attack a brain tumour.

Despite these obstacles, there have been several medical breakthroughs in the past few years, so there is hope. Even though some tumours still present with a grim prognosis, in some cases, it is now possible to bring the tumour into a state of remission and to extend the person’s life by many years.

For more information, visit the website of the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada

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