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If diagnosed in time, brain tumors are curable

All brain tumors may not be cancerous or life-threatening, and they needn’t elicit a panic reaction—this was the message that doctors at Columbia Asia Hospital, Pune, wished to convey on Brain Tumor Day.

A tumor is a term that refers to any abnormal cell formation inside the brain. It can be either benign (low grade: slow growing, not likely to manifest in other areas) or malignant (high grade: fast growing, likely to spread quickly). However, there are other classifications as well, depending on which part of the brain they originate from, and even which cell they spring from. Doctors dwelt on this and other lesser-known facts of brain tumors. The idea was to spread brain-tumorsawareness, so that people caught it quickly and it could be treated effectively.

Worldwide, there are over 500 people diagnosed with brain tumor every day. In India too, the number is growing. According to the Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States, the worldwide incidence of primary central nervous system tumors in 2012 was 3.4 per 1,00,000. Brain tumors are the second most common cancer in children. In the case of young adults, brain tumor is the leading cause of death from solid cancers.

“Cases of brain tumor are surging in India. The availability of imaging diagnostics is helping to discover more new cases every year. However, it’s important for people to know that brain tumor is curable, especially with the kind of targeted treatments we have these days. The main purpose for days like Brain Tumor Day is to create an awareness, so people are armed with knowledge, and come in to get checked if they observe the symptoms: headaches, blurred vision, problems with balance, lack of control, seizures, problem with memory, changes in speech or entire personality,” said  Dr. Nilesh Nadkarni, Consulatnt Neurology, Columbia Asia Hospital, Pune.

The severity of the brain tumor depends on its type, origin, as well as location in the brain, as well as the physical health of the person. Shrinking/removing a benign tumor is much easier than treating a malignant tumor for obvious reasons. Treatment can be a combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, depending on various factors.

“We mandatorily follow a fixed set of procedures before determining the type of treatment. A patient suspected with brain tumor has to undergo a neurological exam wherein we check for vision, hearing, alertness, muscle strength, coordination, and reflexes. The next step is to perform a radiological examination in the form of an MRI/CT scan. Biopsy of a lesion may be undertaken as well. It’s important to note that today, we have the tools to save lives, and so we encourage people to charge of their health and come forward to address any niggling issue, even if it is a chronic headache. It may end up being nothing, but if a tumor is diagnosed, at least we know that there is a good chance of the person being healed,” added Dr Nadkarni.

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