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Brain Cancer

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Alternative Names:Glioma, Meningioma

Definition:
Brain cancer is a disease of the brain in which cancer cells (malignant) arise in the brain tissue. Cancer cells grow to form a mass of cancer tissue (tumor) that interferes with brain functions such as muscle control, sensation, memory, and other normal body functions.

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There are more than 100 different types of brain tumour, depending on which cells within the brain are involved. The most common (about 50 per cent of brain cancers) is called a glioma, and it is formed not from the nerve cells of the brain but from the glial cells, which support those nerves. The most aggressive form of glioma is known as a glioblastoma multiforme – these tumours form branches like a tree reaching out through the brain and may be impossible to completely remove.

Other tumours include:
*Meningiomas – account for about a quarter of brain cancers and are formed from cells in the membranes, or meninges, that cover the brain

*Pituitary adenomas – tumours of the hormone-producing pituitary gland

*Acoustic neuromas – typically slow-growing tumours of the hearing nerve often found in older people

*Craniopharyngioma and ependymomas – often found in younger people

The treatment and outlook for these different brain tumours varies hugely. Some, such as meningiomas and pituitary tumours, are usually (but not always) benign, which means they don’t spread through the brain or elsewhere in the body. However, they can still cause problems as they expand within the skull, compressing vital parts of the brain. Other types of brain cancer are malignant, spreading through the tissues and returning after treatment.

Brain tumours are also graded in terms of how aggressive, abnormal or fast-growing the cells are. Exactly where the tumour forms is also critical, as some areas of the brain are much easier to operate on than others, where important structures are packed closely together.

Causes:
The cause of brain cancer  remains a mystery, but some risk factors are known. These include:

*Age – different tumours tend to occur at different ages. About 300 children are diagnosed with brain tumours every year, and these are often a type called primitive neuroectodermal tumours (PNETs), which form from very basic cells left behind by the developing embryo. PNETs usually develop at the back of the brain in the cerebellum

*Genetics – as many as five per cent of brain tumours occur as part of an inherited condition, such as neurofibromatosis

*Exposure to ionising radiation – such as radiotherapy treatment at a young age

*Altered immunity – a weakened immunity has been linked to a type of tumour called a lymphoma, while autoimmune disease and allergy seem to slightly reduce the risk of brain tumours

*Environmental pollutants – many people worry that chemicals in the environment (such as from rubber, petrol and many manufacturing industries) can increase the risk of brain cancers, but research has so far failed to prove a link with any degree of certainty. Neither is there clear and irrefutable evidence for risk from mobile phones, electricity power lines or viral infections, although research is ongoing.

Symptoms:
The symptoms and signs of a brain tumour fall into two categories.

Those caused by damage or disruption of particular nerves or areas of the brain. Symptoms will depend on the location of the tumour and may include:

*Weakness or tremor of certain parts of the body

*Difficulty writing, drawing or walking

*Changes in vision or other senses

*Changes in mood, behaviour or mental abilities

Those caused by increased pressure within the skull – these are general to many types of tumour and may include:

*Headache (typically occurring on waking or getting up)

*Irritability

*Nausea and vomiting

*Seizures

*Drowsiness

*Coma

*Changes in your ability to talk, hear or see

*Problems with balance or walking

*Problems with thinking or memory

*Muscle jerking or twitching

*Numbness or tingling in arms or legs

Diagnosis:
The initial test is an interview that includes a medical history and physical examination of the person by a health-care provider.If he or she  suspects a brain tumour, you should be referred to a specialist within two weeks. Tests are likely to include blood tests and the most frequently used test to detect brain cancer is a CT scan (computerized tomography). This test resembles a series of X-rays and is not painful, although sometimes a dye needs to be injected into a vein for better images of some internal brain structures.

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Another test that is gaining popularity because of its high sensitivity for detecting anatomic changes in the brain is MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). This test also resembles a series of X-rays and shows the brain structures in detail better than CT. MRI is not as widely available as CT scanning. If the tests show evidence (tumors or abnormalities in the brain tissue) of brain cancer, then other doctors such as neurosurgeons and neurologists that specialize in treating brain ailments will be consulted to help determine what should be done to treat the patient. Occasionally, a tissue sample (biopsy) may be obtained by surgery or insertion of a needle to help determine the diagnosis. Other tests (white blood cell counts, electrolytes, or examination of cerebrospinal fluid to detect abnormal cells or increased intracranial pressure) may be ordered by the health-care practitioner to help determine the patient’s state of health or to detect other health problems.

Treatment:
The type of treatment offered and the likely response depends on the type, grade and location of the tumour. Unlike many other organs, it’s very difficult to remove parts of the brain without causing massive disruption to the control of body functions, so a cancer near a vital part of the brain may be particularly difficult to remove.

The main treatments for brain tumours include:

*Surgery – to remove all or part of the tumour, or to reduce pressure within the skull

*Radiotherapy – some brain cancers are sensitive to radiotherapy. Newer treatments (stereotactic radiotherapy and radiosurgery) carefully target maximum doses to small areas of the tumour, avoiding healthy brain tissue.

*Chemotherapy – these treatments are limited by the fact that many drugs cannot pass from the bloodstream into brain tissue because of the ‘blood-brain barrier’, but may be useful when tumours are difficult to operate on, or have advanced or returned.

*Biological’ therapies – for example, drugs that block the chemicals that stimulate growth of tumour cells

*Steroids – can help to reduce swelling of the brain and decrease pressure in the skull
Often a combination of treatments will be recommended.

While, as a general rule, brain tumours are difficult to treat and tend to have a limited response, it can be very misleading to give overall survival figures because some brain cancers are easily removed with little long term damage, while others are rapidly progressive and respond poorly to any treatment.

While only about 14 per cent of people diagnosed with a brain tumour are still alive more than five years later, this sombre statistic could be unnecessarily worrying for a person with a small benign brain tumour. What a person diagnosed with brain cancer needs to know will be the outlook for their individual situation, which only their own doctor can tell them.

Treatments do continue to improve – for example, survival rates for young children have doubled over the past few decades, and many new developments are being tested.

Other treatments may include hyperthermia (heat treatments), immunotherapy (immune cells directed to kill certain cancer cell types), or steroids to reduce inflammation and brain swelling. These may be added on to other treatment plans.

Clinical trials (treatment plans designed by scientists to try new chemicals or treatment methods on patients) can be another way for patients to obtain treatment specifically for their cancer cell type. Clinical trials are part of the research efforts to produce better treatments for all disease types. The best treatment for brain cancer is designed by the team of cancer specialists in conjunction with the wishes of the patient.

Prognosis:
Survival of treated brain cancer varies with the cancer type, location, and overall age and general health of the patient. In general, most treatment plans seldom result in a cure. Reports of survival greater that five years (which is considered to be long-term survival), vary from less than 10% to a high of 32%, no matter what treatment plan is used.

So, why use any treatment plan? Without treatment, brain cancers are usually aggressive and result in death within a short time span. Treatment plans can prolong survival and can improve the patient’s quality of life for some time. Again, the patient and caregivers should discuss the prognosis when deciding on treatment plans.

Living with Brain Cancer:
Discuss your concerns openly with your doctors and family members. It is common for brain cancer patients to be concerned about how they can continue to lead their lives as normally as possible; it is also common for them to become anxious, depressed, and angry. Most people cope better when they discuss their concerns and feelings. Although some patients can do this with friends and relatives, others find solace in support groups (people who have brain cancer and are willing to discuss their experiences with other patients) composed of people who have experienced similar situations and feelings. The patient’s treatment team of doctors should be able to connect patients with support groups. In addition, information about local support groups is available from the American Cancer Society at http://www.cancer.org/docroot/home/index.asp.

Prevention:
Although there is no way to prevent brain cancers, early diagnosis and treatment of tumors that tend to metastasize to the brain may reduce the risk of metastatic brain tumors. The following factors have been suggested as possible risk factors for primary brain tumors: radiation to the head, HIV infection, and environmental toxins. However, no one knows the exact causes that initiate brain cancer, especially primary brain cancer, so specific preventive measures are not known. Although Web sites and popular press articles suggest that macrobiotic diets, not using cell phones, and other methods will help prevent brain cancer, there is no reliable data to support these claims.

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.

Resources:
http://www.medicinenet.com/brain_cancer/page5.htm
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/braincancer.html
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MRI_head_side.jpg

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Exercise ‘Cuts Colon Cancer Risk’

Endoscopic image of colon cancer identified in...
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Taking exercise can cut the risk of the most common kind of bowel cancer by a quarter, research suggests.

US scientists, who reviewed 52 previous studies, calculated the most active people are 24% less likely to develop colon cancer than the least active.

……
Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death

Colon cancer is the most common form of bowel cancer, a disease which affects more than 36,500 people a year in the UK, causing 16,000 deaths.

These results give us a very reliable calculation of the positive effect that exercise can have on reducing colon cancer risk ” says Dr Kathleen Wolin of Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis

The study appears in the British Journal of Cancer.

The study took into account many different types of physical activity including occupational activity like manual labour, as well as more traditional leisure-time activity such as running or going to the gym.

Lead researcher Dr Kathleen Wolin, from the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis said: “These results give us a very reliable calculation of the positive effect that exercise can have on reducing colon cancer risk.

“It’s very positive to see that exercise has such a clear benefit in reducing cancer risk and we hope it will encourage people to enjoy a healthy active lifestyle as well as treating it as a way to minimise their colon cancer risk.”

Dr Wolin said she hoped it would eventually be possible to give individuals a detailed breakdown of how they could reduce their chances of cutting their risk of bowel cancer tailored to their own specific circumstances.

Sara Hiom, director of health information at Cancer Research UK, said: “One hundred people a day are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK alone, so it’s imperative that we do all we can to prevent the disease.

“We know that around half of all cancers could be prevented by changes to lifestyle.

“Maintaining a healthy bodyweight is one of the best ways to lower the risk of bowel and other cancers – potentially helping to avoid an estimated 13,000 cases each year.”

You may click to see:->
Hopes over DIY bowel cancer tests
Shining a light on bowel cancer
Tag for aggressive bowel cancer
Bowel cancer screening to begin

Sources: BBC NEWS: 12Th. Feb.’09

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Mediterranean Diet ‘Cuts Cancer’

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Adopting just a couple of elements of the Mediterranean diet could cut the risk of cancer by 12%, say scientists.

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The Mediterranean Pyramid
The Mediterranean diet begins with the same basis of lots of grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Major differences from the USDA pyramid include:
• Using olive oil as the primary fat
• Allowing for only moderate amounts of milk products
• Using fish and poultry, rather than red meat, as the main source of high protein food from animals
• Including wine with meals

The Mediterranean diet is rich in fruit and vegetables

A study of 26,000 Greek people found just using more olive oil alone cut the risk by 9%.

The diet, reports the British Journal of Cancer, also includes higher amounts of fruits, vegetables, cereals, and less red meat.

A separate study found adding broccoli to meals might help men vulnerable to prostate cancer cut their risk.

The Mediterranean diet came under scrutiny after researchers noticed lower rates of illnesses such as heart disease in countries such as Spain and Greece.

They noticed that people living there generally ate more vegetables and fish, less red meat, cooked in olive oil and drank moderate amounts of alcohol.

The latest study is one of the largest yet to look at the potential impact on cancer of the various parts of this diet.

‘No superfood’

Researchers from Harvard University persuaded thousands of Greek people of various ages to record their food intake over an eight-year-period.

Their adherence to the Mediterranean diet was ranked using a scoring system, and the group with the worst score compared with those who followed a couple of aspects of the diet, and those who followed it the most closely.

The biggest effect they found – a 9% reduction in risk – was achieved simply by eating more “unsaturated” fats such as olive oil.

But just two changes – eating less red meat, and more peas, beans and lentils, cut the risk of cancer by 12%.

Dr Dimitrios Trichopoulos, who led the study, said: “Adjusting one’s overall dietary habits towards the traditional Mediterranean pattern had an important effect.”

Sara Hiom, from Cancer Research UK, said the research highlighted the importance of a healthy balanced diet.

“It shows there are a number of things you can do, and there is no one ‘superfood’ that can stop you developing the disease” says Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK

Broccoli benefit

The other study suggesting that food had the power to prevent cancer came from the Institute of Food Research in Norwich.
Broccoli may help ward off prostate cancer:- CLICK & SEE
Scientists compared the effects of adding 400 grams of broccoli or peas a week to the diet of men at high risk of prostate cancer – and in the case of broccoli found differences in the activity of genes in the prostate which other studies have linked to cancer.

Their findings raised the possibility that broccoli, or other “cruciferous” vegetables, such as cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, could help prevent or slow down the disease, particularly if the man had a particular gene variant – GSTM1.

Professor Richard Mithen, who led the research, published in the Public Library of Science journal, said: “Eating two or three portions of cruciferous vegetables per week, and maybe a few more if you lack the GSTM1 gene – should be encouraged.”

Professor Karol Sikora, medical director of CancerPartnersUK, said the study was the first time in a properly controlled clinical trial that broccoli had been shown to change the expression of specific genes in the prostate gland.

“Although the observation period was too short and the numbers too small to show that the incidence of cancer actually fell, it is the first clear demonstration that broccoli and presumably other cruciferous vegetables may well reduce cancer risk.”

You may click to see:->Mediterranean diet benefits

>Diet Plans & Weight

>The Food Groups and the Food Pyramid

Sources: BBC NEWS:July 2, ’08

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