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Brain Tumor : Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Brain tumors are the growth of abnormal cells in or around the brain organs. Brain tumors can affect anyone, but most cases occur in adults.

There are various types of brain tumors that are divided into two groups based on their development, namely benign (not cancerous) tumors and malignant tumors (cancerous). Tumors that grow in the brain are known as primary brain tumors, while tumors that grow in other parts of the body and spread to the brain are called secondary or metastatic brain tumors.

Levels of brain tumors are divided from level 1 to level 4. This grouping is based on the behavior of the tumor itself, such as the location of tumor growth, growth speed, and the way it is spread. Benign and non-malignant brain tumors are at levels 1 and 2. While at levels 3 and 4, they are usually potentially cancerous and are often referred to as malignant brain tumors or brain cancer.

Brain tumors

The following are various types of benign brain tumors according to the location of their growth, namely:

  • This tumor grows on glia tissue (the tissue that binds nerve cells and fibers) and spinal cord. Most cases of brain tumors that occur are types of glioma.
  • This tumor grows on the membrane which protects the brain and spinal cord. Most of these tumors are not cancerous.
  • This tumor grows in the blood vessels of the brain. This condition can cause partial paralysis and convulsions.
  • Acoustic neuroma. These tumors grow on the acoustic nerve (nerves that function to help control balance and hearing).
  • Pituitary adenoma. This tumor grows in the pituitary gland (a small gland located below the brain). Most of these tumors are benign, but can affect pituitary hormones with effects throughout the body.
  • Tumors that are mostly experienced by children and adolescents grow near the base of the brain. Although rare, these tumors can affect the pituitary gland in the brain which functions to release hormones in the body, to other brain structures.
  • This is a type of tumor that is cancerous and is mostly experienced by children. These tumors grow from the lower back of the brain and tend to spread to the spinal cord fluid.
  • Primitive neuroectodermal tumors (PNETs). This is a rare type of cancerous tumor. This type of tumor can grow in any part of the brain and begins with fetal brain cells.
  • Germ cell tumors. This type of tumor usually develops in childhood when the testicles or ovaries begin to form. These tumors can sometimes move to other parts of the body, such as the brain.

In addition to the types of tumors above, there are also tumors consisting of a combination of several types of tumors, or a combination of tumors with different levels. Handling is done very much depends on the malignancy of the tumor, the location of the tumor, and your health condition.

This page specifically discusses stage 1 and 2 (benign) brain tumors. Please read brain cancer to find out more about malignant brain tumors.

Symptoms of Brain Tumor

Symptoms of brain tumors vary greatly depending on the location, size, or level of growth of the tumor itself. Tumors that grow slowly at first may not cause any symptoms. After brain tumors begin to put pressure on the brain or make some brain functions unable to function properly, symptoms will begin to appear.

The following are some of the symptoms of brain tumors based on their location:

  • Small brain or cerebellum. Tumors in this section can cause loss of coordination function, difficulty walking and talking, blinking eyes constantly, stiff neck, and vomiting.
  • Brain stem. Tumors in this section can cause difficulty walking, paralysis of the facial muscles, shaded vision, and difficulty speaking and swallowing.
  • Frontal lobe. Tumors in this section can cause changes in attitude, loss of sense of smell, and weakness on one side of the body.
  • Parietal lobe. Tumors in this section can cause difficulty speaking, understanding words, writing, reading, and controlling movements. In addition, one part of the body can also experience numbness.
  • Occipital lobe. Tumors in this section can cause loss of vision on one side.
  • Temporal lobe. Tumors in this section can cause convulsions, fainting, speech or memory disorders, and a strange sense of smell.
  • Frontal lobe. Tumors in this section can cause personality changes, weakness on one side of the body, and loss of ability to kiss.

There are several symptoms that have the potential to arise when tumors suppress the inside of the skull, including:

  • Dizziness or headache is severe and sustained (especially when looking down or coughing).
  • Convulsions
  • Easy to sleep.
  • Daze
  • Hallucinating
  • Character change.
  • Hearing or vision disorders.
  • Impaired body balance.
  • Difficult to talk.
  • Disorders of hand or foot movements.

See a doctor immediately if you experience severe and sustained symptoms of dizziness or headache without any obvious cause, especially if accompanied by nausea and vomiting.

Causes of Brain Tumors

Not yet known exactly what causes a person to suffer from a primary brain tumor (a tumor that first appears in the brain or tissue around the brain). It is estimated that primary brain tumors begin to appear when normal cells experience errors or DNA mutations. This mutation makes cells grow and multiply at a faster rate, and stay alive when healthy cells are dead. As a result there is accumulation of abnormal cells and forming tumors.

Primary brain tumors are less common than secondary brain tumors (brain tumors originating from cancer that grow in other parts of the body and then spread to the brain).

There are several factors that can increase a person's risk of having a brain tumor, namely:

  • The risk of developing a brain tumor will increase as you get older because brain tumors are more common in older people. But be aware that brain tumors can appear at any age. There are several types of tumors that only appear in children.
  • Heredity factor. If there is a family that has a brain tumor, then a person's risk of developing a brain tumor is higher. In addition, there are some hereditary diseases that can increase the risk of developing benign brain tumors, including neurofibromatosis type 1 and 2, Turcot syndrome, von Hippel-Lindau syndrome, Gorlin syndrome, Li-Fraumeni cancer syndrome, and tuberous sclerosis. These conditions tend to cause cancer to appear in childhood and early adolescence.
  • Exposure to radiation. Exposure to this type of radiation known as ionization radiation can increase the risk of brain tumors. Ionization radiation can affect humans when they undergo radiation therapy or are exposed to radiation from an atomic bomb explosion. While the waves of radiation originating from electric towers, cellphones, and microwaves have not been shown to be associated with brain tumors.

Secondary brain tumors are more common. This condition is at risk for people who have a history of cancer. Here are some types of cancer that can cause secondary brain tumors:

Diagnosis of Brain Tumors

Increased pressure on the skull is a sign of a tumor in the brain. If you experience a severe and ongoing headache, and suspect it is a symptom of a brain tumor, see a doctor immediately. If based on the examination found a potential for tumor growth, you will be advised to see a brain and nerve specialist (neurologist).

Brain tumors are diagnosed based on perceived symptoms, physical examination, and results of several follow-up tests. Physical examination includes:

  • Hearing and vision.
  • Reactions and reflexes (eg swallowing or lifting the knee).
  • Facial muscles (eg smiling and grinning).
  • Body strength.
  • Balance and coordination.
  • Skin sensitivity.

Whereas further tests that might be suggested are:

  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan. Scanning with the help of X-rays is done to get a clear picture of the inside of the brain.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan. The goal is the same as a CT scan. But on MRI scans, scanning is done using strong magnetic fields and radio waves.
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG). Brain activity will be recorded using electrodes.
  • Positron Emmision Tomography (PET). Scanning is done to check the function of tissues and organs of the body.
  • Biopsy (tissue sampling). This is done to determine the type of tumor and suitable treatment.

Treatment of brain tumors

Treatment of brain tumors depends on the type, size, and location of the tumor. Health conditions in general will also be considered in this regard.

In most cases of benign brain tumors, surgery is usually enough to remove the tumor. But tumors that grow slowly will usually grow back after treatment and potentially turn malignant (cancer). Malignant tumors will tend to spread and grow quickly. If you are a patient with a benign tumor, make sure to keep doing regular checks even if you have finished treatment.

Here are some types of treatment in cases of brain tumors, among them:

  • This method of treatment is done to shrink a benign tumor. Chemotherapy is done by using drugs to kill tumor cells and given in the form of tablets, injections, or infusions.
  • Just like chemotherapy, radiotherapy also aims to shrink a benign tumor. The process uses radiation energy (usually X-rays) to kill tumor cells.
  • Surgical removal of the tumor. Surgery aims to remove the tumor as much as possible without damaging the surrounding tissue. This action requires the process of shaving the hair before punching the part that has the tumor. Anesthetic will be carried out during this process.
  • Sometimes tumors appear in areas that are difficult to remove without damaging the surrounding tissue. Under these conditions, the radiosurgery procedure will be considered a solution. During radiosurgery, high enough energy radiation is directed at the tumor to kill the cells. The radiosurgery procedure does not take long and the recovery is very fast. Even so, not all hospitals provide procedures
  • You will be given medication to help deal with symptoms caused by tumors, both before and after surgery. Examples of drugs that will be given are anticonvulsants to prevent seizures, corticosteroids to reduce swelling around the tumor, pain relief to overcome dizziness, and antiemesis to reduce nausea.

Usually you will be accompanied by a team of specialist doctors to determine the best treatment for handling your condition. You can also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each treatment method that will be taken.

Recovery Process

To help speed up the recovery process, you will usually be advised by a doctor to take advanced therapy. Some examples of these therapies include:

  • Physiotherapy, to help restore muscle strength and motor abilities lost due to tumors.
  • Occupational therapy, to help identify problems related to daily activities. In this case, the occupational therapist will help provide advice on equipment and replacement equipment at home and in the office to facilitate daily activities.
  • Speech therapy, to help overcome disorders of speaking or swallowing.
  • Therapy for school-age children This therapy is carried out to restore their memory or thinking ability which is disrupted by a tumor

After undergoing brain tumor surgery, you will also need adjustments to some of your daily activities, for example:

  • Driving and traveling. You should stop driving if you have or have had a brain tumor. By consulting with the treating doctor, it is still possible for you to be able to drive again. Traveling by plane will usually only be allowed back at least three months after treatment.
  • Back to work. You will feel more tired. It is recommended to work part time first, before you feel ready to work full time.
  • Sexual activity. Sex can be done after the doctor states it is safe to do. Especially for women, it is recommended to continue to use contraception for 6 months to a year after chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
  • It's best to avoid sports that involve direct physical contact, such as boxing. You need approval from a doctor if you want to restart your workout. At least one year after treatment, you are not advised to swim without supervision because there is a risk of experiencing convulsions while in the water.



Collins, V. (2004). Brain Tumours: Classification and Genes. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry.

Butowski, NA. (2015). Epidemiology and Diagnosis of Brain Tumor.

Mayo Clinic (2018). Diseases and Conditions. Brain Tumor.

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Is a health and wellness enthusiast. In him free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.