Brain Cancer

The brain is made up of millions upon millions of cells. These cells are formed from before birth, up until about 7 years old. Once these brain cells stop dividing, they are never meant to divide again. You can see that the division of brain cells is under strict regulation and control. When this control is lost in a single cell, then it starts dividing in an uncontrolled manner. All of the data obtained through research on cancer shows that this disease is caused by a rapidly dividing cell, with no regulators to stop it from dividing.

As the cell makes more and more copies of itself, it grows to form a tumor. This is known as cancer. When a tumor is developed on the brain, it is called a brain tumor or brain cancer. Brain tumors can be malignant or benign, both being dangerous when it comes to the brain. When a brain cancer is malignant, it could potentially invade and destroy important tissues and cells. These malignant tumors can also spread to other parts of the body. However, benign tumors are very slow-growing cells, which hardly ever spread to other parts of the body. (1)

Both of these types of cancer are dangerous when it comes to the brain. Since the skull is unable to expand while the tumor is growing, pressure is put on the brain. (2) The pressure on the brain can result in damaged brain tissue. If left untreated, both types of brain cancer can lead to death. (6) Early detection of cancer is important to prevent it from becoming life threatening. Detecting a tumor while it is still in an early stage is the best predictor of long-term survival. A cancer-related checkup is recommended every three years for people aged 20 to 40 and every year for people over age 40.

(3) Scientists do not fully understand the causes of cancer, but studies show that some people are more likely to develop the disease than others. One of the greatest risk factors for cancer is prolonged or repeated exposure to carcinogens, which are chemicals that cause cellular damage. (2) The details of how carcinogens cause cancer remain unclear, but one theory states that exposure to carcinogens causes an increase in chemicals in the body called free radicals. These radicals take electrons from cellular components of the body, such as DNA.

This makes genes more vulnerable to the effects of carcinogens. These carcinogens result for up to 30% of all cancer-related deaths. (2) Another cause of cancer is exposure to radiation, which damages certain parts of DNA which could code for cell growth regulators. (1) Heredity also plays a role in the development of cancer. If a person’s relatives have a history of cancer, then that person has a higher risk of developing cancer. Genetic variations, particularly those influencing how the body responds to carcinogens, may create a greater vulnerability to cancer.

(5) Brain cancer is usually accompanied at first by headaches and seizures. Later symptoms could include nausea, vomiting, fever, change in pulse, and trouble breathing. Other mental changes may also occur such as difficulty in communication. Symptoms greatly depend on the location of the tumor. For example, if the tumor were located on the part of the brain controlling vision, then vision would be affected. (5) Once a person has been diagnosed with brain cancer, treatment should begin immediately. Treatment for brain tumors involves any combination of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Some tumors require several different surgical procedures; some can be treated with radiation alone. (2) Surgery is the best process to remove a brain tumor. Surgery attempts to remove most, if not all of the tumor. Once most of the tumor is removed, the rest of the tumor can be removed through a process called radiotherapy. Radiotherapy, also called radiation therapy, is the treatment of cancer and other diseases with radiation. (2) Radiotherapy is used when the entire primary tumor cannot be surgically removed.

Radiotherapy deposits energy that injures or destroys cells in the area being treated by damaging their genetic material. (3) This makes it impossible for these cells to continue to grow. Radiation therapy damages rapidly dividing cells, mostly cancer cells but also healthy cells that reproduce quickly. This leads to side effects such as fatigue, skin changes, and loss of appetite. (6) Other side effects usually are related to the treatment of specific areas, such as hair loss following radiation treatment to the head.

(6) Radiation therapy can also cause a decrease in the number of white blood cells; cells that help protect the body against infection. Another method of treating cancer is chemotherapy. (7) Chemotherapy uses powerful anticancer drugs that travel through the bloodstream, making it useful for cancers that have spread. Oncologists, specialists in the studies of tumors, use about 50 different chemotherapy drugs against the cancer. (7) Generally, more than one drug at a time is used because the drugs are more powerful when combined. Chemotherapeutic drugs interfere with a cancer cell’s ability to make new DNA or divide properly.

Chemotherapy is not enough to treat brain cancer alone, so it is usually combined with another method of treatment. In fact, the most common combination of cancer treatments is surgery or radiation therapy followed by chemotherapy. (6) Chemotherapy often causes severe side effects such as internal bleeding, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, hair loss, and an oxygen deficiency of the blood known as anemia. (7) Generally, tumors are satisfactorily treated with radiation and/or surgery, but chemotherapy helps to slow down rapidly growing cancer cells.

(5) Since cancer is uncontrolled cell division, research into the regulation of normal cell division also holds promise. A better understanding of the normal function of a mutated gene may provide better insight into what goes wrong in tumor cells. This may lead to better treatments designed to combat specifically the effects of the mutation. (4) All of the information in this essay proves that cancer is a very serious disease, and if left untreated, can be fatal. Treatment options have improved significantly but early detection is the key to a successful treatment.

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