The onset of brain tumors is disconcerting. With roughly 24,530 cases reported yearly, many people wonder about the causes of brain tumors. This type of cancer can significantly alter an individual’s life, causing severe disabilities in speech, vision, or movement.
A brain tumor is a mass or growth of abnormal cells in the brain. These cells can continue to multiply and invade surrounding tissues, leading to serious health complications. Brain tumors can be both benign and malignant. Benign brain tumors are non-cancerous and usually grow slowly. If they aren’t pressing on vital parts of the brain, they may not be life-threatening.
What Are the Causes of Brain Tumors?
Inherited Genetic Factors
One of the causes of brain tumors, though rare, can be inherited genetic factors or disorders. In some cases, certain mutations in genes are found to be associated with certain types of brain tumors. For instance, neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) and type 2 (NF2) are inherited genetic disorders linked to brain tumor development. However, it’s important to note that having an inherited genetic predisposition does not automatically mean someone will develop a brain tumor.
Exposure to ionizing radiation can also cause brain tumors. People who undergo radiation therapy for the treatment of cancer in the head or neck area are at increased risk of developing brain tumors. People exposed to ionizing radiation through nuclear plant accidents or testing and who have suffered partial or complete radiation damage to the head or neck could also be at risk. It’s worth noting that exposure to ionizing radiation from medical imaging such as CT Scans or MRI scans does not significantly increase one’s chances of developing brain tumors.
The environment plays a significant role in developing certain types of brain tumors. For instance, it has been found that exposure to carcinogenic chemicals could result in the development of certain types of brain tumors. Environmental toxins such as pesticides, herbicides, and industrial solvents are among the dangerous chemicals linked to brain tumors. However, further research is still needed to determine these environmental factors’ significance. Avoiding exposure to these toxins whenever possible is essential.
Viruses and Bacteria
Certain viruses and bacteria have been linked to brain tumors in both animals and humans. The human papillomavirus (HPV) has been linked to certain types of brain and skull base tumors. The simian virus 40 (SV40) has also been found in certain brain tumor cells. While it’s uncertain how these viruses could lead to the development of brain tumors, the research suggests that they could trigger the cells to divide uncontrollably, leading to tumor formation.
No Known Cause
In some instances, brain tumors develop spontaneously. Doctors have not identified a specific cause in these instances, and what causes these types of tumors is still unknown. Researchers are continually working to explore possible factors that could be contributing to these spontaneous brain tumors.
Below are treatment options for brain tumors;
Chemotherapy is a treatment that employs medicines that help destroy any cancer cells that remain after surgery. Chemotherapy can be administered before, after, or during radiation or surgery to help control tumor growth. Chemotherapy is used for grade III or IV gliomas.
Stereotactic radiosurgery is another treatment option that delivers high doses of radiation to the tumor in a single session. Surrounding normal tissue is spared, making it an attractive choice for patients in whom surgical approaches cannot be employed. The procedure can also be utilized to target multiple lesions simultaneously.
Surgery is a common treatment for brain tumors. During surgery, the tumor and some surrounding tissues are removed from the brain. This is done to ensure that all the cancer cells are removed. Surgery may be used alone or with other treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Radiation therapy utilizes high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. It may be used with surgery or by itself. In some cases, radiation therapy may be used to shrink the tumor size before surgery.
Targeted therapy is a newer type of treatment that uses drugs to block specific molecules involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells. The drugs target the cancer cells, reducing the damage to healthy cells.
Immunotherapy is a treatment that uses the body’s immune system to fight cancer. The immune system is stimulated to attack cancer cells, helping to slow down tumor growth.
Clinical trials are studies to evaluate new treatments or procedures for brain tumors. These trials may be offered to patients who have not responded to standard treatments or in combination with standard treatments to determine their effectiveness.
Ways to Reduce the Risk of Brain Tumors
1. Reduce Exposure to Radiation: We are exposed to radiation from various sources such as X-rays, CT scans, and cell phone radiation. Prolonged and excessive exposure to radiation can damage our brain cells and increase the risk of brain tumors. To prevent this, limit your exposure to radiation from medical scans or use devices that come with earphones or hands-free options, reducing the radiation exposure.
2. Eat a Healthy Diet: Consuming healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and reducing the intake of processed foods, fatty foods, and red meat may reduce the risk of brain tumors. The antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables protect our cells against damage while boosting our immune system and decreasing the formation of cancer cells.
3. Regularly Exercise: Regular physical activity boosts our immune system, improves blood flow, and reduces the risk of various types of cancer. Studies suggest that regular exercise reduces the occurrence of brain tumors in patients. Exercise for about 30 minutes daily to keep yourself energetic and promote overall well-being.
4. Reduce Exposure to Chemicals: Pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals are widely used in agriculture, and long-term exposure to these can increase the risk of brain tumors. Avoid using chemical-based pesticides in your home and garden, and try opting for organic fruits and vegetables.
5. Practice Good Sleeping Habits: Sleep deprivation and disturbance alter our body’s immune system, leading to numerous health problems, including the development of brain tumors. An ideal sleeping pattern is 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Avoid using electronic devices for an hour before bed to ensure optimum sleep.
6. Get Regular Check-ups: Regular medical check-ups help to detect any anomalies in our body, and regular brain scans can also detect any early signs of a brain tumor. Early detection can increase the chances of effective treatment.
Brain tumors are a highly complex disease to treat, and their management continually evolves as healthcare professionals and researchers gain more insights into the condition. However, the treatment options discussed above offer individuals a starting point on possible approaches and interventions to treat brain tumors positively.