Brain Tumor Explained: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Bamise Adeseun

June 8th marks World Brain Tumor Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness about brain tumors and supporting those affected by this challenging condition. Brain tumors are abnormal growths of cells within the brain or its surrounding structures, and they can have profound impacts on physical and cognitive functions.  

Brain Tumors: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments 

Before we delve into the comprehensive understanding of this complex disease. Let’s highlight what brain tumors are and what they’re not. 

Are brain tumors cancerous? 

According to John Hopkins Medicine, all brain cancers are tumors, however, not all brain tumors are cancerous. Noncancerous brain tumors are called benign brain tumors while the cancerous ones are called malignant brain tumors. 

Are brain tumors deadly? 

Tumors can be deadly, but this depends on age at diagnosis, the type of tumor, the position of the tumor in the brain and how fast the tumor is responding to treatment.  

Are brain tumors hereditary? 

A small proportion of brain tumors are related to known genetic conditions. The risk is higher for people who have a close relative who has had a brain tumor. 

Causes of Brain Tumors

Brain Tumor Causes
Brain Tumor Causes

The exact cause of brain tumors remains largely unknown. However, several factors are believed to contribute to the development of these tumors:

Genetic Factors: Certain genetic syndromes, such as Neurofibromatosis type 1, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, and Von Hippel-Lindau disease, increase the risk of developing brain tumors. Also, there are certain conditions that predispose one to overproduction of certain cells.  

Environmental Factors: Exposure to high levels of radiation, particularly ionizing radiation from radiation therapy for other cancers, has been linked to an increased risk of brain tumors. 

Immune System Disorders: Individuals with compromised immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or those taking immunosuppressive drugs, may have an increased risk of developing primary central nervous system lymphomas, a type of brain tumor.

Family History: While most brain tumors are not inherited, a small percentage of patients have a family history of brain tumors, suggesting a potential genetic predisposition.

Age and Gender: Brain tumors can occur at any age, but certain types are more common in specific age groups. For example, medulloblastomas are more common in children, while gliomas and meningiomas are more prevalent in adults. Additionally, some types of brain tumors are more common in men than in women, and vice versa.

 Symptoms of Brain Tumors 

The symptoms of brain tumors vary widely depending on the tumor’s size, location, and rate of growth. Common symptoms include: 

Headaches: Persistent headaches, often worse in the morning or during physical activities, are a common symptom. These headaches can be severe and may not respond to typical headache remedies.

Seizures: Brain tumors can disrupt normal brain activity, leading to seizures. These can vary from mild, focal seizures to severe, generalized seizures.

Cognitive and Personality Changes: Tumors affecting certain areas of the brain can cause memory problems, confusion, changes in personality, and difficulties with concentration and decision-making.

Nausea and Vomiting: Increased pressure within the skull can lead to nausea and vomiting, often occurring in the morning.

Vision and Hearing Problems: Tumors near the optic or auditory nerves can cause vision changes, such as blurred or double vision, and hearing loss or ringing in the ears.

Weakness and Numbness: Depending on the tumor’s location, patients may experience weakness, numbness, or tingling in one part of the body, often on one side.

Balance and Coordination Issues: Tumors affecting the cerebellum or brainstem can lead to difficulties with balance, coordination, and walking.

Speech Difficulties: Tumors in areas responsible for language can cause problems with speaking, understanding speech, reading, or writing.

Brain Tumor Diagnosis 

Diagnosing a brain tumor typically involves several steps: 

Neurological Exam: A doctor will perform a thorough neurological examination, assessing the patient’s vision, hearing, balance, coordination, reflexes, and cognitive abilities.

Imaging Tests: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans are commonly used to detect brain tumors. These imaging techniques provide detailed pictures of the brain, helping to identify the presence and location of tumors.

Biopsy: If a tumor is detected, a biopsy may be performed to determine whether it is benign or malignant. This involves removing a small sample of tumor tissue for examination under a microscope.

Molecular Testing: Genetic and molecular testing of the tumor can provide information about specific mutations and markers that may influence treatment options.

 Brain Tumor Treatments 

Treatment options for brain tumors depend on the type, size, location, and grade of the tumor, and the patient’s overall health. Common treatments include: 

Surgery: Surgical removal of the tumor is often the first step, especially if the tumor is accessible and can be removed without causing significant damage to surrounding brain tissue. In some cases, complete removal may not be possible, and surgery aims to reduce the tumor’s size and relieve symptoms.

Radiation Therapy: High-energy beams, such as X-rays or protons, are used to target and destroy tumor cells. Radiation therapy is often used after surgery to eliminate remaining cancer cells or as the primary treatment for inoperable tumors.

Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing. It can be administered orally or intravenously and is often used in combination with other treatments.

Targeted Therapy: This treatment targets specific molecules involved in tumor growth. By focusing on these molecules, targeted therapy can inhibit the growth of cancer cells while minimizing damage to healthy cells.

Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy aims to boost the body’s immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells. This approach includes treatments such as immune checkpoint inhibitors and CAR-T cell therapy.

Clinical Trials: Patients with brain tumors may have the opportunity to participate in clinical trials, which test new treatments and approaches. Clinical trials can provide access to cutting-edge therapies that are not yet widely available.

Supportive Care: In addition to medical treatments, supportive care is essential for managing symptoms and improving the patient’s quality of life. This may include medications to control pain, seizures, and other symptoms, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and counseling.

Read also: Depression Demystified: Causes, Signs and Effective Treatments 


World Brain Tumor Day highlights the critical importance of awareness, early detection, and treatment of brain tumors. Although the exact causes of brain tumors are not entirely known, identifying symptoms early and seeking prompt medical attention can greatly improve outcomes.  

 At HealthConnect247, the best Telemedicine Service Provider in Nigeria, we are your first point of contact for comprehensive health monitoring and early detection of any potential conditions. With our 24/7 accessible healthcare services, you can stay proactive about your health. Reach out to us anytime, any day via our toll-free support line, 0-8000-432584 or by downloading the Health Connect app on iOS and Playstore.  

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