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Overview

Brain tumour is a serious disease of the brain in which tumours, benign or malignant, develop in the brain causing headaches, seizures, problem with vision, vomiting and mental changes. Some more specific symptoms are difficulty in walking, speaking and sensation. With the progress of the disease unconsciousness may also be experienced. Cancerous tumours of the brain can be primary tumours that started within the brain or those that have developed as a result of metastasis from other regions of the body. Symptoms are produced by all brain tumours depending upon the location of the brain involved.

The cause of most primary brain cancers is unknown. Several risk factors have been identified related to the brain cancer. These are a number of inherited conditions like neurofibromatosis as well as exposure to the industrial chemical Vinyl Chloride, the Epstein-Barr virus, and ionizing radiation. Concerns over the link between mobile phones and brain tumours have been expressed but there is lack of sufficient evidence. The most frequent brain tumours in adults are meningioma (usually benign), and astrocytomas such as glioblastomas.

In children, the most common forms of brain cancers are malignant medulloblastoma. Diagnosis is usually carried out by a physical examination followed by computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging, the results of which are confirmed by a biopsy. Treatment is usually administered in the form of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Anticonvulsant medication can be administered if seizures occur. Some tumours grow slowly and monitoring is the only intervention that is needed. Immune system based treatments are yet in their infancy and are being studied. Outcomes depend on the type of tumour and the extent to which it has spread at the time of diagnosis.