Brain cancer: the scary term that - let's face it - not many of us know a whole lot about. Luckily, there’s a less than 1 percent change you’ll develop a malignant brain or spinal tumor in your life, according to the American Cancer Society. But, it's always good to know what signs to look out for.
Brain cancer comes in two varieties: primary tumors and secondary tumors.
Primary tumors start in the brain and rarely spread, while secondary tumors start elsewhere in the body (most commonly the lunges and breasts) and eventually spread to the brain, according to Adilia Hormigo, director of neuro-oncology at the Mount Sinai Health System and associate professor of neurology, medicine and neurosurgery at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Talking to Women's Health, Hormigo outlines the 7 crucial brain cancer symptoms to know about.
Headaches can be an underlying sign of a brain tumor, and possibly a cancerous one. This isn't your average headache from staring at the TV for too long or having an afternoon with your children, these are 'severe' headaches.
Dr Homigo says, 'If you suddenly have severe headaches or if you’re experiencing nausea or vomiting with your headaches, you should seek attention from a doctor.'
While nausea also accompanies migraines, it's never a bad idea to get yourself checked out just in case, especially if your migraines are new or worsening.
Dr Hormigo explains that cancerous tumors can cause seizures when they press on the brain cells around them, ultimately causing electrical signaling problems.
'When you’re having a seizure, that means something in the electricity of the brain isn’t right,' she explains.
If you are experiencing seizures, it is best to visit a doctor as soon as possible.
There are many reasons a woman can feel nauseous - everything from her period to not getting enough sleep - that's why knowing your bodies regular patterns is crucial.
Hormigo explains that persistent queasiness without an explanation should be noted.
Dr Hormigo says, 'If you’re someone who never feels ill like that and it comes on suddenly and sticks around, especially if you’re over 40, you should seek attention.'
When a brain tumor occurs behind the eye, it can cause serious side-effects to your vision, including blurry vision, double vision, and loss of vision, and even cause floating shapes or spots to appear.
'With brain tumors, the symptoms sometimes depend on the area of the brain where the tumor is located,' Dr Homigo says. 'One of the classic situations I see is a driver causing a car accident because something is messing with their visual field.'
Paying close attention to your eyesight and getting your eyes checked regularly (Homigo says once a year is sufficient) is key.
Weakness or clumsiness
Brain tumors that occur in different parts of the brain can have an adverse effect on your physical wellbeing, often throwing off balance and motor control.
'If you feel a weakness or numbness on one side of your body or have trouble dressing, it could be related to a tumor in a certain location,' says Hormigo, noting that there aren't many other explanations for extreme or sudden changes in balance and coordination.
We can all get a bit 'out of it' when we're overloaded with work, not sleeping well, or getting low on blood sugar. But if you have trouble finding the right word, or your friends notice you calling things by the wrong names, you need to talk to your doctor about having a brain scan, Homigo says.
BIG mood changes
If a brain tumor starts to form on the frontal lobe, the area of your brain responsible for controlling your personality, you could quite literally turn into a different person.
'People can actually notice odd behaviors or changes in behaviors with a tumor,' says Hormigo. 'I’ve seen people after treatment who have said, ‘I was getting so cranky. Now I’m back to being a nice person!’'