From Peter R. Fried, MD, Radiation Oncologist

June 2, 2021

Arriving at a brain cancer diagnosis can be an arduous journey because patients can suffer with various non-specific symptoms like headache, sleepiness, and nausea. These general symptoms are like those of other diseases. So, when should someone be concerned about a brain tumor?

The fact is, not all brain tumors are cancerous, and according to the American Cancer Society, the chance a person will develop a malignant tumor of the brain or spinal cord during their lifetime is less than 1%. My OHC colleagues and I always recommend that anyone experiencing bothersome symptoms discuss them with their healthcare provider. An early diagnosis can lead to better outcomes.

Unfortunately, there are no preventative measures or screening recommendations for brain cancer. A person with a brain tumor typically will not experience symptoms until their tumor begins to grow and place pressure on brain tissues. In addition to the aforementioned symptoms, those with brain tumors can experience personality and cognitive behavior changes, vision or hearing problems, neurological changes, seizures, confusion, and vomiting. Because different areas of the brain are responsible for different functions, symptoms are linked to the location of the tumor.

Genetic factors might play a role in brain cancer. Those at an increased risk for brain cancer also include older individuals, longtime smokers, people who have an Epstein-Barr or HIV virus infection, and those who have been exposed to certain toxins like pesticides and fertilizer.

To accurately diagnose brain cancer, doctors will conduct a thorough neurological exam and run a series of tests based on the patient’s symptoms, tumor location, and health history.

Treatment depends on the location of the tumor and the extent of the cancer, but can involve surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or a combination. OHC is the only provider in the Tri-State using Gamma Knife technology to treat brain cancer patients. Since 2013, OHC’s radiation oncology experts have been using this innovative non-surgical procedure to give brain cancer patients incredible control of their disease and hope for a cure. Gamma Knife, which does not involve any cutting, uses computer-guided 3D imaging to target cancerous cells with nearly 200 beams of radiation. The beams are so precise that they can treat tumors of any size, shape, or number, and in any location, with accuracy to .3 millimeters.

Gamma Knife offers patients several benefits. The outpatient procedure enables the patient to return home within a few hours and resume normal activity within one-to-two days. It’s virtually painless, and because there is no incision, we don’t have to worry about the risks associated with surgery. The procedure eliminates the risks of significant side effects like cognitive decline, and, most importantly, patients report improvement in their quality of life. Moreover, evidence shows that Gamma Knife therapy increases lifespan.

My colleagues want to reinforce that you know your body best. Discuss troublesome symptoms with your healthcare provider as early intervention typically leads to better outcomes. OHC’s cancer experts are committed to surrounding patients with both compassionate care and the latest treatment options. For more information on brain cancer, OHC’s ground-breaking cancer research, or to request a second opinion, visit ohcare.com or call 1-888-649-4800.

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