Early Detection of Brain Tumors
In the western industrialized countries the disease occurs again with one of 10,000 inhabitants. Brain tumors are among the rare tumor diseases. Both adults and children can be affected. With modern treatment methods effective help is possible in most cases.
Who belongs to a risk group?
In contrast to most other cancers, risk groups cannot be named because triggering factors are not known. Risks and habits, such as smoking or excessive alcohol consumption, obviously do not play a role. Hereditary predisposition is very rare.
Also environmental influences, stress or extraordinary mental stress do not seem to favor the development of a brain tumor. The ever-suspected connection between a cranial-brain injury and the development of a brain tumor has not yet been convincingly demonstrated.
Warning signs for brain tumors
- A brain tumor is sometimes hidden from the person concerned for a long time, since it often initially causes no discomfort. Typical symptoms that may indicate a brain tumor are:
- Recurrent headaches, especially at night and in the early morning hours, which become fierce with time and also increase in lying, but spontaneously improve during the day,
- Nausea, and vomiting, which are not associated with gastrointestinal disease, and are most likely to occur in the early morning hours and on an empty stomach,
- Seizures such as an epileptic seizure, involuntary convulsions of a limb or body,
- Neurological signs such as paralysis symptoms, speech and coordination disorders, or newly occurring awkwardness,
- Loss of comprehension, understanding and memory,
- Changes in personality or the tapering or flattening of already existing personality traits
- Hormonal disorders
If you are suffering from such symptoms, it is imperative to consult a neurologist who will take the necessary diagnostic steps. Headaches caused by a brain tumor become more and more intense over a few days to weeks and can only be treated with conventional painkillers in a timely manner or not at all. The character and the intensity of the pain are felt as new. In some cases, there is no headache.
What can you do yourself?
Since no risk groups can be identified except for patients with very rare hereditary diseases (neurofibromatosis, von Hippel-Lindau, Li-Fraumeni syndrome), there are no recommendations for the prevention of a brain tumor. Early detection programs are also not available. In families with one of the rare hereditary diseases, regular follow-up examinations are carried out.
What does your doctor do?
In the case of a suspected brain tumor, several diagnostic methods are available to the treating physician. The precise description of the complaints and the collection of the patient’s history provide important information that can lead to the correct diagnosis. A neurological examination is able to detect clinical symptoms in more than half of the patients, which indicate brain disease.
Imaging of a brain tumor
For further diagnostics, computed tomography ( CT ) is available . In this method, the brain is illuminated by means of X-rays and is shown in sectional images. This makes it possible to detect tumors, calcifications and bleeding. However, magnetic resonance imaging ( MRI ) is the method of choice for the detection and imaging of a brain tumor . In the last decade, this has displaced computer tomography in the diagnosis of brain tumors, since it makes irregularities in the brain even more visible than computed tomography. It is carried out even if computer tomography has not produced any conspicuous results, despite the corresponding suspicion.
Modern imaging techniques
In addition to the above-mentioned diagnostic methods, there are others such as the electroencephalogram (EEG) and the investigation of the nerve water (CSF). With the EEG, a coarse localization of a brain tumor is possible and the risk of seizure can be determined. In some cases, CSF is used to rule out an inflammatory disease of the nervous system. However, these methods are of secondary importance compared to modern imaging techniques.