May has been designated as the month to observe and spread brain cancer awareness. As one of North Idaho’s premier comprehensive cancer care providers, Beacon Clinic believes informing and educating people about health issues is critical, and this is an ideal opportunity to bring attention to this devastating disease.


Brain tumors are relatively rare; less than 1% of individuals develop a malignant brain tumor in their lifetimes. However, brain cancer can be deadly, particularly for certain types. Brain cancer causes over 18,000 deaths every year. 


Most individuals who develop a brain tumor are over 80 years old. However, brain cancer can afflict an individual of any age; roughly 5% of brain tumors develop in individuals under 20 years old.


Understanding Brain Tumors


Brain tumors are growths of abnormal cells within or near the brain that develop when mutations in a cell’s DNA cause the cell to reproduce continually. There are several different types of brain tumors, each presenting different symptoms and treatment options. Outcomes are generally significantly better when cancers are detected early.


Tumors can originate within the brain itself, known as primary brain tumors, or metastasize from other parts of the body, termed secondary brain tumors. The location, size, and malignancy of these tumors vary, influencing symptoms and treatment strategies. Some tumors are noncancerous (benign), but others are aggressive and malignant. However, even benign tumors can cause serious damage to health, as they can put pressure on the brain and affect its functioning.


Brain tumors are characterized by the specific types of cells from which they originate. Gliomas, originating from glial cells, encompass various subtypes, such as astrocytoma and glioblastoma, with the latter being the most common malignant brain tumor. Other categories include choroid plexus tumors, embryonal tumors, germ cell tumors, pineal tumors, meningiomas, nerve tumors, and pituitary tumors.


Symptoms and Diagnosis


Recognizing the signs and symptoms of brain tumors is paramount for early intervention. Still, there is a wide variation among symptoms depending on a tumor’s location, size, and growth rate. Common indicators include persistent headaches, nausea, vision changes, neurological problems such as weakness or numbness, cognitive impairment, personality changes, and seizures. Patients experiencing these symptoms need prompt medical evaluation. Diagnosing a brain tumor will usually require imaging with a brain MRI, but tests may also include a CT scan, lumbar puncture, MR spectroscopy, biopsy, or other tests.


Treatment Options


The management of brain tumors hinges on several factors, including tumor type, size, location, and overall health status. Treatments commonly include surgical resection, radiation, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, or a combination of therapies. A multidisciplinary approach involving neurosurgeons, oncologists, radiologists, and other specialists is often used to optimize a positive outcome while minimizing side effects and preserving a higher quality of life for the patient.


Although the information provided here is general, hopefully, it sensitizes people to this disease that affects the lives of over 25,000 Americans and their families every year. The efforts of Beacon Clinic and other healthcare organizations to highlight brain cancer awareness can promote education, advocacy, and support for these individuals and families.


Beacon Clinic Can Help


Through public outreach initiatives, communities can help ensure that those who may exhibit symptoms take the necessary steps to investigate early detection options. As we commemorate Brain Cancer Awareness Month, let us reaffirm our commitment to understanding, supporting, and advocating for those impacted by cancer. If you have been diagnosed with a brain tumor or any other cancer, we invite you to schedule an appointment with Beacon Clinic to find out how we can support you in developing a comprehensive care plan and obtaining the treatment you need.