Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Brain Tumor Action Week

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By Diane Forrest, RN

Years ago if you heard of someone having a brain tumor it was like receiving a death sentence.  Medical research has grown so much since then.  Cures and treatments have progress so that it is no longer considered a fatal diagnosis for some.  There is still so much to do though. Each year over 190,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with a brain tumor. Brain tumors are a leading cause of tumor cancer deaths in children. Brain tumors are also the third main cause of cancer death in adults within the 20-39 age brackets.

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Brain tumors are either primary or metastatic tumors. Primary brain tumors are those which originate in the brain. Metastatic brain tumors are those which originate from cancerous cells that have migrated from other areas of the body.  Metastatic brain tumors are also known as secondary brain tumors. Not all brain tumors are cancerous – benign brain tumors are non-cancerous tissue and are harmful only when they grow to a size which affects adjacent areas of the brain. Benign brain tumors tend to grow more slowly than malignant (cancerous) brain tumors.

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Early warning signs include:
  • seizures;
  • headaches;
  • fatigue, tiredness and drowsiness;
  • impaired speech;
  • difficulties when swallowing;
  • in infants, an increase in head size;
  • impaired vision;
  • vomiting;
  • poor body coordination;
  • behavioral and mood changes;
  • weakness in a limb or on one side of the body;
  • difficulties with balance; and or
  • tingling sensations and/or weakness in the arms or legs.

With over 120 different forms of brain tumor, effectively treating them can become very complicated.  Proton treatment for a brain tumor is a precise method of using proton therapy to deliver powerful doses of radiation to the tumor. The precision this delivery of treatment brings means there is minimal effect of the surrounding healthy brain tissue.
Dosage of radiation can be tailored to each tumor. Other treatments include surgical removal, chemotherapy, radio therapy or a combination of these methods.

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This week is Brain Tumor Action Week.  To see what things you can do, click here:  http://www.braintumor.org/get-involved/advocacy-public-policy/action-week.html

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