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Brain cancer

Brain cancer

What is brain cancer?

Brain cancer is an overgrowth of cells in your brain that forms masses called tumors.

Cancerous, or malignant, brain tumors can grow very quickly, depending on the type of tumor. They can disrupt the way your body works, and this can be life-threatening.

However, brain cancer is quite uncommon. According to estimates from the American Cancer Society, people have less than a 1 percent chance of developing a malignant brain tumor in their lifetime.

What are the symptoms of brain cancer?

The symptoms of brain cancer depend on the size and location of the tumor.

Common brain cancer symptoms include:

  • headaches that are usually worse in the morning
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • a lack of coordination
  • a lack of balance
  • difficulty walking
  • memory lapses
  • difficulty thinking
  • speech problems
  • vision problems
  • personality changes
  • abnormal eye movements
  • muscle jerking
  • muscle twitching
  • unexplained passing out, or syncope
  • drowsiness
  • numbness or tingling in the arms or legs
  • seizures

Many of the symptoms of brain cancer are also caused by other, less-serious conditions. There’s no need to panic if you’re experiencing these symptoms, but it’s a good idea to visit your doctor to have your symptoms investigated, just in case.

Causes and risk factors for brain cancer

The exact cause of brain cancer is unknown. However, factors that can increase your risk of brain cancer include exposure to high doses of ionizing radiation and a family history of brain cancer.

Cancer in another part of your body is also a risk factor for developing a tumor in the brain, though these aren’t called brain cancer. They are cancers that have spread to the brain.

Cancers that commonly spread, or metastasize, to the brain include:

  • lung cancer
  • breast cancer
  • kidney cancer
  • bladder cancer
  • melanoma, which is a type of skin cancer

Other factors that might be related to developing brain cancer include:

  • increased age
  • long-term smoking
  • exposure to pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizer
  • working with elements that can cause cancer, such as lead, plastic, rubber, petroleum, and some textiles
  • having an Epstein-Barr virus infection, or mononucleosis