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What Are Tumors and How Can They Affect the Brain?

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What are Tumors and How Can They Affect the Brain?

I would like to start this essay by saying, I have an interest in covering this topic because I know of a couple people that are very close to me that have been affected by this condition. A doctor found a benign, tumor within my friend's brain at the age of thirteen, but he is now twenty-four years old and as healthy as ever. My father is the other person I know who had a tumor. A team of doctors found his tumor when he was thirty-nine years old; I was only four years old at the time. His was also benign but it was within a different spot of his brain, unfortunately he passed away twelve years after he found out he had it.

What are brain tumors?

Brain tumors are masses of cells that grow abnormally and uncontrollably within the brain. They can be malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous) (WebMD, www.webmd.com/content/article). Even if the tumor is benign, it is still dangerous because the brain is enclosed in the skull. The skull cannot expand to make room for a growing tumor, so the tumor may press on or damage delicate brain tissue.

Symptoms include frequent headaches, loss of appetite, seizures, speech problems, impaired vision, problems of understanding and change in personality. Even if you have all these symptoms, it does not mean you have a tumor. From my searches, I say the only way you know if you have a tumor is going through the tests.

To diagnose a brain tumor, a doctor takes a complete medical history and conducts a neurological examination, as well as an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan of the brain (National Brain Tumor Foundation, www.braintumor.org). Also, other scans can help determine the specific tumor type and characteristics, such as CT (computed tomography) and PET (positron emission tomography). In addition, a biopsy of the tumor tissue is performed to provide a definitive diagnosis. If the tumor is deep inside or in a critical area of the brain, a needle biopsy has to be performed. Then, by examining the biopsy, the doctor can determine the exact type and grade (aggressiveness) of the tumor.

After the doctor comes back with the results and you find out what kind of tumor it is, you are placed a couple of options with treating this kind of disease. The American Brain Tumor Association says that surgery is most common treatment (American Brain Tumor Association, www.abta.org). Simply put, the doctor tries to remove as much of the tumor as possible and release pressure within the skull caused by the tumor. After this surgery, another MRI is performed to determine the extent of tumor removal and to help plan further treatment. Radiation therapy is another treatment that can be done. This is where doctors deliver doses of radiation to the tumor. If the treatments above do not work, chemotherapy, the use of chemicals or drugs, would be the next approach for trying to get rid of the tumor. Even after all that, the patient still has to go back to their doctors for more tests. I cannot remember everything when I was younger but I do remember visiting my farther in hospitals all the time. I think I spent more time with him in the hospital than any other time in my life. I look back now with regret that I did not spend as much time with him when he was home, I wish I would have!

Sense the tendency for brain tumors to recur was great and the possible side effects of the treatments, follow-up examinations are a given. As I mentioned before, after the surgery is done an MRI scan must be taken. If radiation therapy or chemotherapy was performed, the MRI scan must be taken on an ongoing basis. I always knew if my father was not at home or at his second home (the hospital), he would be at the doctor's office getting tests done. There was a wide variety of rehabilitation techniques my farther, with the assistants of my mother and doctors had tried. All of them as a team had to work on his ADLs (activities of daily living) after his second surgery was performed.

I remember after he had his first surgery, he could still walk normally, hold a conversation, he was basically his old self. For example, there was a day my brothers were riding their Honda dirt bike up and down our road. My father took notice, so he went over by them and said, "Give me that. I want to show you boys a new trick." He got on the bike, rode about thirty yards away and then came back riding a wheelie with one hand waving to my brothers and I. He started to show off more by not looking where he was going so the inevitable happened. He crashed into the neighbor's fence sending him flying over it. He got to his feet and picked up the pieces of the fence. After that, he came walking down the rode dragging the bike behind him and all he said to us was "I guess I better buy you guys a new one." If you knew who he was, you would

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