Brain and spinal cord cancers are cancers that occur within the skull, or in the spinal column. Brain and spinal cord cancers present as abnormal growths in the tissue in these areas. While some brain and spinal cord tumours are non-cancerous or benign, many are malignant, or cancerous. Spinal cord cancers occur within the tissue in the spinal column, which is where the central nervous system is housed, and can cause significant damage to nervous system function.
For the majority of people, brain and spinal cord cancer result from abnormal growth of the cells in these areas. However, for some people, genetic factors may be behind the development of brain and spinal cord cancer. The exact causes of brain and spinal cord cancer are currently unknown, although genetic links and exposure to radiation are correlated with occurrences of brain and spinal cord cancer.
There are a range of symptoms that may be experienced by people suffering from brain and spinal cord cancer. Those suffering from brain cancer may experience headaches, seizures, a sense of nausea, problems with vision or hearing, changes in perception, and a host of related cognitive, motor, and balance problems. Those suffering from spinal cord cancer may experience pain, changes to their perception, and problems with their motor control.
In order to diagnose brain and spinal cord cancer, special imaging techniques are use. In addition, EEGs and spinal taps can be used, and biopsies are also common to help detect cancerous tissue. Once the brain or spinal cord cancer has been diagnosed, several types of brain and spinal cord cancer treatment can be undertaken.
The most common types of cancer treatment for this type of cancer include surgery to remove the cancer from the affected area, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Some cancer patients may also be prescribed a steroid course to help with inflammation and swelling. Alternative therapies and approaches may be of some benefit in helping to reduce symptoms and to help keep the patient in otherwise good health; being in good physical condition has been associated with higher remission rates in some instances.
The prognosis of an individual afflicted with brain or spinal cord cancer varies depending on the type of cancer, how developed the cancer is, and whether the cancer has spread to other areas of the body. A highly malignant cancer, for example, will spread more quickly and more dangerously than a benign tumour, and will require more immediate and aggressive cancer treatment.