While brain cancer is an inherently dangerous condition, it is a highly rare disease. Estimates suggest that the chance of developing a malignant tumor in the brain or spinal cord is less than 1 percent. If you are diagnosed with brain cancer, your doctor will proceed to the staging process. Read on to learn more about brain cancer, the staging process, as well as alternative brain cancer treatments.
How Brain Cancer Forms
Brain cancer refers to any cancer that originates in the various cells within the brain. However, patients can potentially develop secondary forms of brain cancer, which occurs when cancer in a different part of the body spreads to cells within the brain. Cancerous cells grow and spread, creating masses of cancer tissue referred to as tumors. Tumors can create pressure on parts of the brain or prevent proper blood flow to areas in the brain. This can interfere with vital brain functions, including muscle control, sensation, and memory.1
The exact symptoms of brain cancer can vary from patient to patient, but the most common symptoms include:
- Feeling weak or dizzy
- Having difficulty walking
- Blurred vision
- Sudden changes in alertness, mental capacity, memory, speech, or personality1
Diagnosis and Selecting Treatment
Identifying a brain cancer diagnosis starts with evaluating a patient’s medical history and performing a general physical exam. From there, the doctor may use imaging tests, like a CT scan or MRI scan, to observe activity or potential metastases in the brain. Your doctor may also require a brain tissue biopsy to test for cancerous cells. These are all methods for how to detect brain cancer, which can ultimately help to determine the appropriate method of cancer treatment.1
Types of Brain Cancer
To better understand the brain cancer stages, it’s important to note the different types of brain cancer. Primary brain tumors are named after the cells that they affect. This includes:
- Pituitary adenomas
- Vestibular schwannomas
- Primitive neuroectodermal tumors
Gliomas also have subtypes, including astrocytomas, oligodendrogliomas, ependymomas, and choroid plexus papillomas.1
Primary Brain Cancer Grades and Stages
Once you have been diagnosed, your doctor will proceed to the staging process, which helps the doctor determine the severity of your cancer, as well as the extent of its spread. Identifying the stages of brain cancer will help you and your doctor better identify a treatment plan that works for your specific needs.
Cancer stages are ranked on a scale from 0 to IV. Stage IV cancer is the highest stage and represents an aggressive cancer that has spread to nearby organs, such as the brain stem, spinal cord, or lymph nodes, or organs in other areas of the body. Brain cancer is often referred to in grades rather than stages because brain tumors are less likely to spread to other organs in the body.1
The Grading Process
The method of grading brain cancer is different from the processes involved with staging other types of cancer. Other cancers, including lung cancer, colon cancer, and breast cancer, are put into stages based on their location on the body, tumor size, amount of lymph node involved, and the potential spread into other parts of the body.
As not all brain tumors are similar, tumors are assigned to a grade depending on how the cells appear upon being observed from under a microscope. The grading structure starts with a benign tumor as grade I to the most aggressive tumor as grade IV. The grading system is also used for determining the specific features of a brain tumor, including how cancerous it is and its likeliness to grow.1.2
Grade I brain tumors comprise tissues that are slow-growing and rarely spread into neighboring tissue. While these tumors are considered benign, they can still lead to serious problems, including increased intracranial pressure or obstruct vascular structures. They can also block off the flow of blood and cerebrospinal fluid. Grade I tumors may also become malignant if left untreated.1,2
Treatment: Depending on the size of the tumor, your doctor may simply recommend close monitoring of the tumor. However, grade I tumors can usually be removed completely via surgery.
Grade II brain tumors are considered malignant, meaning that they grow at a faster rate than grade I tumors and may potentially spread to other areas or recur. Grade II tumors also appear less like normal cells.1,2
Treatment: Grade II tumors can also be removed through surgery. However, unlike with grade I tumors, surgery for grade II tumors may involve removing healthy tissue surrounding the tumor, which may also mean removing parts of the brain that are essential for basic, vital functions. Grade II tumors also tend to progress to more severe grades, though the process is slow and can take several years. Patients with grade II tumors who have a higher risk of progression may consider chemotherapy or radiation therapy.3
Grade III brain tumors include malignant cells that appear abnormal. The tumor grows much quicker and is likely to spread to nearby healthy tissue. Almost all grade III malignant tumors progress to grade IV.3
Treatment: Grade III brain tumors usually require aggressive surgery to remove the cancerous tissue combined with fractionated radiotherapy, which can span up to six weeks. This may occur in conjunction with chemotherapy. Even with successful removal, grade III tumors can recur, usually appearing as grade IV tumors.4
Grade IV brain tumors are fully cancerous, growing aggressively and easily spreading into neighboring areas in the brain and spinal cord.2 These often include primitive neuroectodermal tumors that require aggressive cancer treatment to target the tumor cells.
Treatment: Treatment for grade IV brain tumors centers on a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and targeted therapy. Surgery may not be an option for some patients if the tumor growth is too extensive as it may result in significant damage to healthy brain tissue. These malignant tumors are also the most likely to recur following treatment.3
Metastatic Brain Tumors
Also known as secondary brain cancer, metastatic brain tumors are caused by cancerous cells that originated elsewhere in the body and traveled to the brain via the bloodstream or lymph system. Metastatic brain tumors generally present with many of the same symptoms as primary brain cancer.4
Similar to primary brain cancer, metastatic brain tumors also rely on a staging system on a scale of 0 to IV. However, brain metastases also use the TNM system.
- T refers to the size of the tumor.
- N refers to the lymph nodes that may be affected by cancerous tumor cells.
- M refers to the severity of the metastasis.5
Treatment for metastatic brain tumors usually involves surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, though this depends on the number of tumors. For example, for multiple metastatic brain tumors, primary treatment usually involves whole-brain radiation therapy. The effectiveness of treatment for brain metastases usually relies less on the number of metastases and more on your neurological function and the status of the primary cancer.4
Alternative and Natural Treatment Options for Brain Cancer
While there are many methods of treatment for brain cancer, the Immunity Therapy Center provides patients with natural treatments designed to help the fight against cancer without weakening your body. The Immunity Therapy Center treatment program focuses on stimulating the immune system by recognizing and destroying cancer cells with a combination of natural and noninvasive effective therapies to take control of the cancer cells’ weaknesses.
Our goal is to provide patients with healing opportunities and treatments other than radiation therapy or chemotherapy. With our various alternative cancer treatments, Brain cancer is among one of the cancers that are treated at the Immunity Therapy Center.
Discover how you can find a customized care treatment plan for you or a loved one’s cancer with the Immunity Therapy Center.