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Explaining brain tumors and causes

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Posted: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 4:00 am | Updated: 6:44 am, Wed May 30, 2012.

With May being Brain Tumor Awareness Month, Dr. Michael Badruddoja, a board certified neurologist at the Center for Neurosciences, wants to send out some important messages to the public that will last all year.

Badruddoja, who also has subspecialty training in neuro-oncology, decided to get into the field of neurology after finding an interest in psychology during undergraduate studies.

“I became more interested in the anatomy of the brain and kind of went more along the realm of neurosciences, and it came together because I was also doing research at the Arizona Cancer Center,” he said.

Badruddoja said with all the misconceptions regarding brain tumors, there is one that stands out the most.

“Probably the biggest misconception, even among some doctors, is that a brain tumor is essentially a death sentence, and that’s really not the case,” he said.

Badruddoja said as a neurologist, he manages brain tumors the same way an internal medicine doctor would manage diseases such as hypertension, heart disease, or diabetes.

“None of those diseases are curable either, and quite frequently, those disease entities can kill people,” he said. “But just like brain tumors, those diseases can be managed.”

However, before management come symptoms.

Some of the most notable symptoms for glioblastoma, which is the most frequent brain tumor, include rapid neurological deterioration, which can cause paralysis and memory loss, undercut intelligence, and affect an individual’s ability to walk. Other symptoms include headache, nausea, vomiting, and an impaired ability to accomplish everyday motor functions.

Badruddoja said symptoms vary.

“Symptoms really depend on where the brain tumor arises from,” he said. “Most primary brain tumors arise from the cortex, where we have language, motor function, and sometimes thinking, so all of those things can be affected. Some might have difficulty getting the right word out, or weakness in an arm or leg, weakness of the face, difficulty with behaviors and changes in behavior, and people can also present with seizures as tumors can irritate the brain itself.”

Glioblastoma is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in individuals younger than 54 years of age, and accounts for 12-15 percent of all brain tumors, most common to males over the age of 53.

According to Webmd.com, glioblastomas often form and spread in an aggressive fashion, working by infiltrating and advancing through the brain tissue.

Badruddoja said while there are some genetic syndromes associated with brain tumors, it is more common for a tumor to develop spontaneously. Badruddoja added that research shows certain occupations are more associated with the development of brain tumors than others.

“It’s thought to be exposure to things like hydrocarbons or various chemicals, but there has been no real causative links,” he said.

Badruddoja also took a moment to address the popular myth that cell phones can be a cause of brain tumors.

“There has been no definitive literature suggesting that primary brain tumors are caused by cell phones,” said Badruddoja.  

Badruddoja said common management of a brain tumor first includes surgical intervention to diagnose the tumor by grade, and depending on the type of tumor, six weeks of radiation, supplemented with six weeks of oral chemotherapy, as well as a year of adjuvant temozolomide.

For tumors that continue to misbehave, Badruddoja said the drug Avastin, granted approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2009, has become a groundbreaking treatment option for glioblastoma.

While it is important to be aware of brain tumor symptoms, Badruddoja said regular screenings for brain tumors are not necessary.

“Primary brain tumors only make up about two percent of all cancers, so a regular screening for primary brain tumors is not worthwhile doing,” he said. “For those who have genetic abnormalities where certain brain tumors are associated with them, they usually get screened as a whole because they can have tumors develop in other parts of the body as well.”

The Center for Neurosciences is located at 2450 East River Road

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