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Everything You Need to Know About Brain Cancer

May 07, 2024

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May is Brain Cancer Awareness Month. To mark the occasion, we’ll cover all the basics of brain cancer and what to expect if you develop it. 

Brain tumors aren’t that common: Fewer than 1% of people will experience brain cancer in their lifetime. Still, educating yourself about brain cancer and its warning signs could one day help you identify and treat a brain tumor in its earliest possible stage. 

In honor of Brain Cancer Awareness Month, we’re summing up the basics about brain tumors and what to expect if you develop one. At Arizona Center for Cancer Care, our impressive team of world-class oncologists provides cancer care across the state of Arizona. From your initial diagnostic evaluation to post-treatment rehabilitation, our team is here to support you and give you the best possible chance at recovery. If you have concerns about brain cancer, you can receive compassionate care at our offices in Avondale, Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale, Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Surprise, Anthem, Peoria, Fountain Hills, Wickenburg, Apache Junction, Sun City, Sun City West, Goodyear, or Tempe, Arizona. 

Here’s everything you should know about brain cancer and what to anticipate if it affects you:

Not all brain cancers are the same

Experts have discovered over 150 types of brain cancer and counting. Brain tumors vary in where they are located, how much they spread or metastasize, and how they impact your brain function. 

Our team can talk to you in depth about the specific type of brain cancer affecting you. All brain tumor types belong to one of the following categories:

Primary brain tumors

Primary brain tumors are cancers that originate in the brain. Rarely, they can spread into your spinal cord or beyond the central nervous system into other areas of your body. A couple of common examples of primary brain tumors are glioma and meningioma. 

Metastatic (secondary) brain tumors

A metastatic or secondary brain tumor didn’t start out in your brain — the cancer started somewhere else and eventually spread into your brain tissue. These brain tumors are much more common than primary brain tumors and can grow rapidly. 

Early warning signs

Though brain cancer is rare, you may wonder about warning signs to watch out for. If you experience symptoms from a brain tumor, the specific symptoms and changes in function vary according to the area of the brain housing the tumor. For example, a brain tumor might affect your hearing if it’s in the auditory cortex of your temporal lobe, the area of your brain responsible for auditory processing. 

General symptoms associated with brain tumors include:

  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Personality changes
  • Balance problems
  • Trouble thinking or speaking
  • Balance problems or dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting

Our team requests details about your symptoms, when they started, and if they’re getting worse as part of your diagnostic evaluation. Occasionally, especially in the early stages, brain cancer doesn’t cause any symptoms. 

Know the risk factors

It’s not possible to predict whether or not brain cancer will affect you during your lifetime, but specific brain cancer risk factors increase your chances of developing a tumor. Some risk factors are correctable while others are outside of your control. Some of the most prevalent brain cancer risk factors are:

  • Radiation exposure (including from radiation therapy)
  • A weak immune system
  • Specific genetic disorders (e.g. neurofibromatosis types I and II) 
  • Cancers in other parts of your body

Further research is needed to confirm other speculative risk factors for brain cancer such as cell phone use, chemical exposure, and viral infections. 

Options for treatment

As with any cancer type, your brain cancer treatment plan is tailored to your personal needs. While creating a treatment strategy, our team considers the tumor’s size, location in the brain, type, and stage among other details. A thorough assessment with neurological exams, imaging tests, and possible biopsy (if the tumor is safely accessible) can offer lots of insight into your brain cancer to help our team plan the most effective possible treatment. 

A multifaceted treatment plan for brain cancer might include:

  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted drug therapy
  • Brain surgery
  • Rehabilitation and follow-up care

Arizona Center for Cancer Care also conducts clinical trials. Clinical trials are research studies that test new and emerging drugs and therapies. If you’re a candidate for treatment in a clinical trial, our team tells you everything you need to know and what to expect. 

Our team has the necessary expertise to not only diagnose your brain cancer, but also give you the support you need throughout the process of treatment. For the latest information on brain cancer and brain cancer treatment, call your nearest Arizona Center for Cancer Care office or request an appointment online today.