brain tumor awareness

Brain and other central nervous system (CNS) tumors are the fifth most common form of cancer, affecting over 1 million people worldwide and are most commonly found in people aged 85 and older. With more than 100 distinct types identified, there is a wide range of characteristics and prognoses. It may be surprising that less than one-third of these tumors are classified as cancerous.

What are the most common brain tumor myths?  

Brain tumors can be complex and are often misunderstood. Some common myths include:

Myth 1:All brain tumors are cancerous

While it’s true that some brain tumors are cancerous), approximately 72% of all brain tumors are benign (non-cancerous). Benign tumors may still cause symptoms and may require treatment, but they are not cancerous.

Myth 2: Headaches indicate a brain tumor.

While persistent or severe headaches can be a symptom of a brain tumor, they are more commonly caused by other conditions, such as migraines, tension headaches, or sinus problems. Most headaches are not a sign of a serious underlying health issue, but seek medical attention if headaches are severe, frequent, worse in the morning, accompanied by nausea or vomiting, don’t respond well to over-the-counter pain medication, or are associated with changes in posture.

Myth 3: Brain tumors always cause symptoms.

Not all brain tumors cause noticeable symptoms, especially in the early stages. Some tumors may grow slowly and remain asymptomatic for a long time, while others may cause symptoms depending on their location and size. Headaches are the most common symptom. Other symptoms may include seizures, changes in vision or hearing, weakness or numbness in the limbs, difficulty speaking or understanding language, and changes in mood or behavior.

Myth 4: Brain tumors are always fatal.

While brain tumors can be serious and potentially life-threatening, not all types are fatal. Treatment options, such as surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, have improved significantly over the years, leading to better patient outcomes. The prognosis depends on various factors, including the type of tumor, its location, and how early it’s diagnosed and treated.

Myth 5: Brain tumors result in cognitive impairment.

While certain brain tumors can affect cognitive function, such as memory, concentration, and speech, not all tumors lead to significant cognitive impairment.

Survival post-diagnosis varies widely based on factors such as age, race, geographic location, tumor type, location, and molecular markers, reflecting the complexity and of these conditions. Amidst these statistics, an estimated 1 million Americans grapple with the realities of a primary brain tumor diagnosis, underscoring the pressing need for continued research and support.

If you or someone you love experiences persistent or concerning symptoms, consult a health care professional for a thorough evaluation and appropriate diagnostic testing, such as imaging studies like MRI or CT scans. Early detection and diagnosis are key to initiating timely treatment.
Dr. Katharine Cronk
Katharine Cronk, MD, PhD practices neurosurgery at Foundation Neurosurgery in Nashua, New Hampshire.