A nervous system tumour is an abnormal growth of tissue in the brain or spine that can disrupt proper neural function.
Neuro and spine surgeons refer to a tumour based on where the tumour cells originated, and whether they are cancerous (malignant) or not (benign) and Primary (originate from brain cells) or Metastatic (begin in other parts of the body and spread to the brain).
Symptoms of brain tumour can be general or specific.
A general symptom is caused by the pressure of the tumour on the brain or spinal cord. Specific symptoms are caused when a specific part of the brain is not working well because of the tumour. The symptoms may be recurrent headaches, issues with vision, seizures, changes in personality, memory loss, poor coordination, difficulty speaking or comprehending.
Spine tumours can give rise to neck or back pain, weakness of any limbs or urinary or bowel trouble-depending upon the part of the spine involved.
Neurosurgeons use many tests to diagnose brain and spine tumours, find out the type of brain and spine tumour, and rarely, find out if it has spread to another part of the body, called metastasis.
The most common imaging tests used for diagnosing a brain and spine tumour include MRI, MR Spectroscopy, Perfusion MRI, Functional MRI, CT Scan, PET Scan, cerebral angiogram, MR Myelogram, X Rays.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has created a standard by which all tumours are classified. Tumours are given a name based on the cells where they arise, and a number ranging from 1 to 4. The number is called the grade and it represents how fast the cells can grow and are likely o spread. This is critical information for planning treatment and predicting outcomes.
For most types of tumours, taking a sample of tumour tissue, either by biopsy or by surgically removing part of the total tumour, is the only way to make a definitive diagnosis of a brain tumour.
Treatment options and recommendations depend on several factors: the size, type, and grade of the tumour, whether the tumour is putting pressure on vital parts of the brain if the tumour has spread to other parts of the CNS or body, the patient’s preferences, and overall health.
With the advances in surgical and radiological techniques: Microsurgery, Endoscopic Surgery, Image-guided surgery, intraoperative monitoring it has become very safe to remove brain and spine tumours without causing much morbidity and mortality.
The most common treatment options available for a brain tumour are –
- Surgical remove- Microsurgery, Endoscopic surgery, Image-guided surgery, Biopsy, Decompression, and total microscopic excision
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted Therapy
The author is the Director of Neuro & Spine Surgery at Fortis Escorts Hospital Faridabad