It’s becoming a common notion. A patient has a headache and after doing a Google Search, he/she finds out a headache is one of the telltale signs of a brain tumor. Headaches that aren’t associated with an underlying condition are referred to as primary headaches, implying that there is no particular disorder to blame for the condition.
However, headaches that result from another disease or ailment are referred to as secondary headaches, and a headache that is a symptom of a tumor is a secondary headache. This is when the brain’s mass is the cause of head pain.
Usually, physicians are not concerned if the headache is mild, occasional, or of short duration, and caused by factors such as fasting, sleep deprivation, flu-like illness, hangovers from alcohol and other similar factors. However, patients experiencing severe headaches and on more frequent occasions may be developing a life-threatening condition.
About 50 percent of the patients who do have brain tumors suffer a headache, and 50 percent of patients develop headaches with the progression of the disease.
Why Brain Tumors Result in Headaches?
There are two reasons why brain tumors cause headaches. First, they take up space inside the skull while they grow. Secondly, they cause specific symptoms due their position inside the skull.
Because the skull is made of bone, there is a fixed amount of space allocated for the brain. The growing tumor will cause an increase in pressure inside this limited space. The pressure is referred to as raised ICP or raised intracranial pressure. The increase in pressure is the root cause of headaches, along with other symptoms like drowsiness and sickness.
The brain tumor caused headaches are ‘tension like’ and will ache in nature, and result intermittently with an onset and resolution over a couple of hours. These headaches can also resemble a common migraine, but worsen over the months. Tumors can also come in the way of the cerebrospinal fluid flow, which can result in headaches. These events can be followed by loss of muscle tone or consciousness.
Severe headaches should be consulted with the physician, who will perform the role of determining whether the headache requires testing for something serious. Usually an MRI test will be performed, followed by studies in some cases, such as a CT scan to detect possible bony infiltration, or imaging of the skull to detect the tumor. Some patient may also be recommended lumbar puncture to evaluate the spinal fluid.
Treatment Options for the Tumor
If a tumor is detected, the usual treatment option for most complicated brain tumors will be open brain surgery. However, the process of accessing the tumor stereotactically to perform a biopsy can be complicated, and also subjects the patient to risk of developing a direct neurologic injury or hemorrhage.
Pineal tumor surgery is currently being bolstered by revolutionary breakthrough procedures, including tiny endoscopes that can be used to reach the tumor directly and excise it completely. Patients receive all the advantages, and there is no retraction or disruption of brain tissue. Other benefits include faster recovery time, less pain and less chances of complications.
The goal of the new procedures call for the brain to remain virtually untouched, expect for the tumor that would be removed.