Did you know brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer? .
It is estimated that around 88,000 children and adults are living with a brain tumour in the UK and sadly only about 12% of adults survive for 5 years after diagnosis . Brain tumours reduce life expectancy by an average of 27 years – the highest of any cancer – yet only 3% of cancer research funding in the UK is spent on brain tumours .
There have only been marginal improvements in the treatment and prognosis of brain tumors over the past decade . Urgent awareness and an increase in research funding is needed to give people affected more time and a better quality of life.
In this blog we will cover:
- Signs and symptoms
- Help and support
Signs and symptoms
Brain tumours can cause a variety of symptoms but the most common are :
- Headaches, caused by pressure created in the skull by the brain tumour
- Changes in vision, resulting from compression of the optic nerve
- Seizures, caused by the brain tumour affecting normal brain activity
- Nausea and dizziness
- Loss of taste and smell
- Cognitive changes such as difficulties with memory or personality changes
- Communication problems such as speech that is slurred, slow or difficult to understand
If you think you have any of the symptoms listed above and you are concerned, contact your GP straight away.
Often patients are initially examined by a GP who will refer to a neurologist if they suspect a brain tumour. The neurologist will perform neurological and ophthalmic examinations followed by advanced imaging of the brain in the form of Computerised Tomography and/or Magnetic Resonance Imaging. A surgical biopsy is sometimes taken via a burr hole into the skull for tumour diagnosis and grading .
Conventional brain tumour treatments
Conventional treatments consist of neurosurgery, radiotherapy and stereotactic radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and steroids . However, the type of treatment will depend on many factors such as tumour type, location, and the individual patient. Also, treatments can differ slightly between adults and children.
Non-conventional brain tumour treatments
There are clinical trials all around the world testing non-conventional, innovative treatments and delivery systems to try and improve the lives of people living with a brain tumour. Further information about the clinical trials currently available can be found by accessing the following links below.
- BRIAN – an app developed by The Brain Tumour Charity which includes a clinical trial finder (www.thebraintumourcharity.org).
- ClinicalTrials.gov – a database of privately and publicly funded clinical studies conducted around the world (www.www.clinicaltrials.gov).
- Cancer Research UK – a database for UK clinical trials (www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/find-a-clinical-trial).
There are also a number of emerging treatments that are currently being developed :
- BrainPath® – a novel surgical technique that uses the natural folds of the brain to create a channel to the tumour site.
- Convection Enhanced Delivery (CED) – delivering chemotherapy drugs directly into the brain tumour.
- Tumour Treating Fields (TTF) – a non-invasive electrical field treatment for glioblastoma.
- Dendritic Cell Therapy (DCT) – a type of immunotherapy.
Help and support
For more information and support visit the following links. These fantastic charities provide excellent resources for people and their families living with brain tumours.
- The brain tumour charity. 2023. Our vision is for a world where brain tumours are defeated. [Online]. [Accessed 21 March 2023]. Available from: www.thebraintumourcharity.org.
- Park, J.H, de Lomana, A.L.G, Marzese, D.M, Juarez, T, Feroze, A, Hothi, P, Cobbs, C, Patel, A.P, Kesari, S, Huang, S and Baliga, N.S. 2021. ‘A Systems Approach to Brain Tumor Treatment’, Cancers (Basel), 13(13), pp. 3152. doi: 10.3390/cancers13133152.
- National Health Service. 2020. Brain tumours. [Online]. [Accessed 21 March 2023]. Available from: www.nhs.uk/conditions/brain-tumours/.
- Shah, V and Kochar, P. 2018. ‘Brain Cancer: Implication to Disease, Therapeutic Strategies and Tumor Targeted Drug Delivery Approaches’, Recent Pat Anticancer Drug Discov, 13(1), pp. 70-85. doi: 10.2174/1574892812666171129142023