Brain cancer is a general term for the different types of brain cancers that may occur in the brain. The several types of brain cancer that occur depend on tissue type, and these types of cancers determine prognosis. Cancers begin when cells mutate, begin growing, and dividing at an alarming rate. The mutation that occurs in these cells causes the cells to lose their original function and drain the body of its resources. Eventually, the cancer may cause neural deficits and mental changes due to the mass effect of the cancer compressing parts of the brain. The large mass may cause symptoms of intracranial hypertension, which include vomiting, nausea, somnolence, and papilledema. Patients may also report irritation and fatigue due to these cancers.
The cancers with the best prognosis are meningiomas and medulloblastomas. Both occur more frequently in children. Meningiomas arise from the meninges of the central nervous system, while medulloblastomas arise from brain cells in the cerebellum. Surgical resection of these cancers generally results in cure, though chemotherapy is recommended for children with medulloblastoma to prevent reoccurence of the tumor.
The cancers that occur most frequently in adults are glioblastoma multiforme and oligodendrogliomas. Both have a fairly grim prognosis. Surgical resection is recommended for both patients, but often a significant part of the brain must be resected, causing neural deficits as well. Even with added chemotherapy and radiation therapy, median survival rates for both range from a year to 17 months. Gioblastoma multiforme grows rapidly and often has a worse prognosis, but oligodendrogliomas have a slower growth rate. In fact, oligodendrogliomas that are slow growing may simply be watched by a neurosurgeon if the patient is old enough. Unfortunately, while much research has been poured into chemotherapy and ground-breaking virus-based therapy, there is no cure for both. Death from these cancers is an unfortunate yet inescapable fate.