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May is Brain Tumor Awareness Month

Posted 5/1/2016 by UHBlog

Every day, more than 100 adults in the U.S. find out that they have a brain tumor. Having a brain tumor is a shock that leads to many questions and feelings.

The gray ribbon represents brain tumor awareness because healthy brain matter is often referred to as gray matter.

May is Brain Tumor Awareness Month

What is a brain tumor?

A brain tumor forms when cells in the brain begin to grow out of control. These cells form a mass of tissue or tumor. Sometimes a brain tumor is also called a brain lesion. Lesion is a word used to describe something abnormal in the brain. A brain tumor is a mass of tissue in the brain that is abnormal.

Tumors that start in the brain are called primary brain tumors. A tumor that starts in another part of the body and spreads to the brain is called a metastatic brain tumor. Brain tumors may be either benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).

What causes brain tumors?

In most cases, doctors don’t know what factors cause a person to get a brain tumor. People who have cancer or certain inherited diseases are more likely to get a brain tumor. People who have been exposed over long periods of time to certain chemicals or ionizing radiation also have a higher risk of brain tumor. Research studies have shown that other things like high tension electric towers, cell phones, smoking, drinking alcohol or eating certain foods are not sure causes of brain tumors.

It’s important to remember: people who get brain tumors did nothing to cause the tumor to happen, and had no way of preventing it.

What can be done?

At this time there is no medical screening or prevention for brain tumors.

Brain tumors can be treated in different ways such as watchful waiting, surgery, radiation therapy, chemo and clinical trials. The types of tumors that form and the way they are treated are different in children and adults.

The key to brain tumor awareness is knowing the type of brain tumor that you or a loved one has and the treatment options that are available.

How can patients and families cope?

There is no right way for a person to act or feel when they find out that they have a brain tumor.

It is normal to feel many emotions such as fear, uncertainty and isolation. Some people find it helpful to have a trusted person to talk to. Other people need help from health care professionals such as a social worker or psychologist. Support groups and relaxation exercises may also be useful. Some people seek help from religious clergy or members of their religious community.

A person with a brain tumor should expect to be overwhelmed, especially at first. Patients and families need to be aware of symptoms of stress such as decreased appetite, sadness, tiredness, crabbiness, sleeplessness, restlessness and feeling sick to the stomach. Doctors can usually help patients deal with these problems.

See the American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA) website for more information about brain tumor awareness month. The website has helpful resources for those who have recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor and their caregivers and loved ones.

Learn more about the brain tumor program at University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center.

Additional online resources:

References cited:

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