Brain cancer

A cancerous tumor, regardless of its location, forms from uncontrollably proliferating cells.

Brain cancer can develop in any area of the brain.

Primary brain cancers account for 1% of all cancers and are the leading cause of cancer deaths. Primary brain cancer forms from brain cells.

There are also secondary brain tumors that arise from metastases of a cancerous entity that originally developed outside the brain (most commonly breast, lung, kidney, or skin cancer). Metastasis is the process by which cancer cells spread through the body to organs other than those originally affected.

These malignant cells spread through the body through the blood. The metastases then reach the brain and usually develop between the gray and white matter.

Most often, glial cells in the brain, called gliomas, are involved in the development of these malignant tumors and may be astrocytomas, oligodendrogliomas, or glioblastomas.

It should be noted that glioma-type brain cancers never metastasize to other organs.

There are also meningiomas, which are most often benign neoplasms.


About Primary Brain Cancer :

The aggressiveness of the various types of brain cancer is largely due to their location, making it difficult for the standard treatments commonly used to fight cancerous tumors. Typically, these are diffuse tumors, making treatment with surgery or radiation therapy difficult. The use of chemotherapy is complicated by the fact that the drug must cross the blood-brain barrier (of cells that isolate and protect the brain from potential pathogens).


Types of primary brain tumors :

Gliomas: are most commonly malignant tumors. They make up the bulk of brain cancers. These tumors form from glial cells. Glial cells stabilize the environment of neurons. They also isolate neurons, forming the blood-brain barrier. Among gliomas, gliomas are mainly distinguished by :

– Astrocytoma: affects astrocytes, glial cells present in all areas of the brain. The degree of spread of this cancer determines its severity. With grades 1 and 2, the tumor is considered benign and not very diffuse. At grades 3 and 4, the tumor is malignant and infiltrates several areas of the brain. At grade 4, we are no longer talking about an astrocytoma, but a glioblastoma;

– Ependymoma: a mostly benign tumor that affects the ventricles of the brain or the ducts through which the cerebrospinal fluid flows.

-Glioblastoma: it accounts for almost 20% of brain cancers. This malignant tumor develops rapidly and usually spreads to several areas of the brain.

– Oligendroglioma: it develops from oligendrocytes (a type of glial cell). The neoplasm can be located in any area of the brain. Low-differentiated oligendrogliomas grow slowly and are considered benign. Highly differentiated oligendrogliomas, on the other hand, are malignant tumors that grow rapidly.

– Pituitary adenoma: A benign tumor that develops in the pituitary gland. It affects endocrine and visual disturbances.

– Meningioma: usually a benign tumor. Meningiomas can develop in the brain or spinal cord (since both are surrounded by meninges);

– Neuroma : develops in the Schwann cells located in the nerves. Most often, this tumor develops in the brain, more specifically in the auditory nerve. This tumor is often benign.

– Neurofibroma: A benign tumor that can become malignant. It usually affects the auditory nerve, which connects the inner ear to the brain.

– Hemangioblastoma: a benign, slow-growing vascular tumor. Often found in the context of a hereditary disease, von Hippel-Lindau disease. Hemangioblastoma is most often found in the posterior cranial fossa, in the cerebellum.

– Pineal tumor: accounts for 3-8% of intracranial neoplasms in children (and 0.4-1% of intracranial tumors in adults). This tumor can be benign (pinealocytoma) or malignant (pinealoblastoma).



What causes brain cancer?

Like all cancers, brain cancer results from a spontaneous mutation in certain brain cells (often glial cells). Anarchic cell proliferation is the cause of the tumor.

In the case of secondary brain tumors, however, this phenomenon first occurs in another organ. Subsequently, cancer cells (metastasis) enter the brain via the bloodstream.


Risk factors

  • Brain cancer is not a hereditary disease, but there is a genetic predisposition that slightly increases the risk of developing this type of cancer in a patient’s family.
  • It is a spontaneous mutation in a certain cell type that causes an anarchic proliferation of cells that form brain cancer. It should be noted that this genetic mutation is present only in the affected cells, not in the whole body, and therefore is not hereditary.
  • Herpes encephalitis: Although there is no scientific evidence at this time, physicians have noted a connection between herpes encephalitis and brain cancer. Indeed, it is not uncommon for herpes encephalitis, which causes inflammation of brain tissue, to precede brain cancer.
  • Ionizing radiation is classified as a definite carcinogen for humans.
  • Pesticides: Some studies suggest an increased risk of brain cancer in farmers exposed to pesticides. However, these results still need to be confirmed.
  • Exposure to lead or mercury has repeatedly been linked to an increased risk of developing some types of brain cancer.
  • Age: Brain cancer occurs more often with age



The symptoms that people with brain cancer show are very varied and depend mostly on the location of the tumor.

Regardless of the type of brain tumor, there are certain non-specific signs:

– Frequent and intense headaches

– digestive disorders, nausea, vomiting

– visual disturbances: blurred or double vision, temporary loss of peripheral vision, which may progress toward the center, confusion, loss of consciousness, etc;

– neurosensory disorders: numbness, tingling, paralysis, weakness on one side of the body, dizziness ;

– memory problems;

– Loss of balance and problems with coordination of movements;

– Hearing impairment (especially if the cancer affects the auditory nerve);

– Lack of appetite and, as a consequence, weight loss. Sometimes there may be weight gain without changing the patient’s diet. This is especially true for pituitary adenoma, which causes metabolic and hormonal disorders. In this case, menstrual irregularities are also sometimes observed;

– severe fatigue (asthenia);

– Behavioral and personality changes: frequent depression, irritability. Sometimes patients may perform inappropriate behaviors or say inappropriate things.


However, these are not very specific and do not necessarily indicate a brain tumor. Neurological signs and memory loss can also be a sign of neurodegenerative disease.


! The only specific sign of a brain tumor is an epileptic seizure in a patient who does not have epilepsy.



Like other cancers, brain tumors can be treated with surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. However, because the brain is a complex organ and gliomas are most often diffuse, treating brain cancer is more difficult than treating other malignancies.


Surgical treatment for brain cancer is the first line of treatment if the tumor is small and therefore operable. However, if the tumor is too widespread, surgery is not recommended because of the risk of damaging certain parts of the brain. For example, it is out of the question to jeopardize the patient’s vision by damaging the optic nerve. It is believed that a patient who has lost his or her independence will not be able to properly fight cancer or cancer recurrence. This is because it is sometimes impossible to remove all cancer cells, and surgery does not always prevent recurrence of brain cancer.


Gamma Knife

The gamma knife is a more precise and effective treatment method than traditional radiation therapy. It is used as a second-line treatment and is more effective than chemotherapy. However, results are generally mixed, although cancer progression is slowed.



It is prescribed as a second-line treatment. It generally slows the progression of the disease, but the results are mixed because chemotherapy has difficulty crossing the blood-brain barrier.


Prevention of brain cancer

It is difficult to predict or prevent the occurrence of this disease, the causes of which remain mysterious. However, as with all cancers, a healthy lifestyle is recommended:

– A balanced diet rich in organically grown (pesticide-free) fruits and vegetables

– regular physical activity

– sleep;

– quitting smoking,

– Reducing the amount of alcohol consumed;

– protection from aggressive sun exposure

removing heavy metals from the body (chelation therapy)


What tests are necessary to diagnose brain cancer?

Clinical examination and history taking by the attending physician ;

Biopsy to determine if the tumor is benign or malignant. A biopsy is performed by taking a sample of tumor tissue;

Imaging tests (PET/CT, MRI, etc.) are used to precisely localize the tumor and determine its size.


At the Health and Prevention Center in Geneva, you may undergo :

Preventive cancer screening

Rehabilitation program after an oncological disease

A chelation therapy for the elimination of heavy metals

– Cancer check-up

– Cancer therapy


Our Medical Center is located in the center of Geneva.

Your Health and Prevention Center

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