Understanding Brain Tumors, Diagnosis and Treatment

brain tumor x-ray
According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, more than 300,000 people worldwide were diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2020. While the exact cause of brain tumors is unknown, advancements in neurology and neurosurgery have led to a greater understanding of how they are diagnosed and treated.

Brain Tumor Diagnosis

A mass of tissue formed by abnormal cells, brain tumors are typically identified as benign or malignant. Based on size and location, brain tumors can fall into many categories, including: cavernous sinus tumors, orbital tumors, pituitary tumors, gliomas, meningiomas and neuromas.

“We still look at them as benign and malignant, but it’s not as black and white in the brain,” said Dr. Ali Krisht, director of the CHI St. Vincent Arkansas Neuroscience Institute. “When it comes to the tumors that arise in the brain, it’s graded more on a spectrum. The grade 1 and 2 behave in a more benign way and as they change to 3 or 4, they become more cancerous.”

While they can present without any signs, most brain tumors are diagnosed after symptoms such as severe and frequent headaches, seizures, blurred vision or balance issues. Patients may experience these or other side effects depending on the size, type and location of the tumor.

“The symptoms vary, but one of the more common symptoms is seizures, especially in tumors that arise inside the brain,” said Dr. Krisht. “This is because these tumors interfere with the brainwave activity of the electrical charges on the surface of the brain.”

Brain Tumor Treatment

There was a time when a brain tumor diagnosis was essentially a death sentence for a patient, but advancements in treatment have provided new opportunities for those even with pronounced or difficult to reach tumors.

“When it comes to brain tumors, it’s not gloom and doom,” Dr. Krisht said. “Our abilities in making the surgery safe and knowing more details about a tumor and its relationship to the surrounding structures is highly developed.”

Brain tumors often require surgical treatment followed by chemotherapy and radiation to shrink or kill the tumor and any remaining cancer cells. While a tumor can initially present with a low grade and only require monitoring, it can also grow into the point where surgery is necessary.

“We know it’s time when there are symptoms or signs that the brain is unhappy,” said Dr. Krisht. “If there’s swelling of the brain, pressure on the brain or bleeding in the vicinity of the tumor, these are signs that the tumor is misbehaving and we have to do something about it.”

Led by Dr. Krisht and a team of highly skilled neurosurgeons, the CHI St. Vincent Arkansas Neuroscience Institute is a comprehensive program incorporating all aspects of neurosurgery and the spectrum of neurological disorders. The team of experts continually undertakes new research and technology to find the newest state-of-the-art treatments that bring the greatest quality of life back to our patients.