Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Brain Tumor Awareness Week - Benign

In continuation of the Brain Tumor Awareness discussion I would like to address the word benign in relation to brain tumors.

With tumors found in other areas of the body, the word benign is the best words that you can hear. With tumors in the brain, benign just means you have a different set of obstacles before you. Let's first explore, what is a tumor?

A tumor is an area where there is growth of normal or abnormal cells beyond that which is necessary. Typically a benign tumor is made of normal cells that reproduce very slowly. A malignant tumor is made of abnormal cells that can quickly reproduce.

A tumor in the brain can put pressure on very sensitive areas of the brain, causing a wide variety of symptoms. Because of this, a benign tumor in a sensitive area of the brain can cause just as much damage as a malignant tumor in a "safe" area of the brain. This is what causes benign tumors of the brain to be just as deadly as those which are malignant. It's a phenomenon that is unlike most other tumors found in the body.

A good thing about primary brain tumors (tumors that originate in the brain) is that they very rarely spread outside of the brain to other areas of the body. Occasionally a brain tumor will spread down the cerebral column into the spinal cord but it is extremely rare for it to extend beyond that.

This information is why even a benign tumor should be removed if it is in a location that is "safe". In most cases, no further treatment is needed beyond surgery for benign tumors, however, with a primary brain tumor's tendency to change grade and return, the patient should be watched for the rest of their life following the discovery of a brain tumor.

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