This Type of Headache Could Mean Cancer

This Type of Headache Could Mean Cancer

When it comes to cancer, early detection is often emphasized. Regular mammograms, prostate exams, and colonoscopies, though unpleasant, can be life-saving. However, these screenings do not apply to brain cancer. You may have never heard of screening guidelines for brain cancer, and there’s a reason for that.

“To date, there are no approved screening tools—laboratory or imaging—that can detect brain cancer at early stages, contrary to mammograms, colonoscopies, or prostate-specific antigen (PSA) markers used for other tumors,” says Dr. Mina Lobbous, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic Neurological Institute. “It is crucial to be mindful of symptoms that require urgent evaluation, as early detection and intervention can significantly impact outcomes such as survival or neurological function in some types of tumors.”

But how can you recognize these symptoms? Surprisingly, some everyday habits might signal brain cancer. Dr. Lobbous and other neurologists point to a common habit that could be a red flag for brain cancer.

What Are the Odds of Developing Brain Cancer?

According to the American Cancer Society, the odds of developing a malignant (cancerous) brain or spinal tumor are less than 1%, with women having slightly higher chances than men. The National Cancer Institute estimates that more than 25,000 people will be diagnosed with brain and other nervous system cancers in 2024.

It’s important to note that some brain tumors are benign (non-cancerous) but can still cause issues like reduced brain function and can grow large enough to become life-threatening, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Without a formal screening process, understanding brain cancer signs can help you seek prompt care and improve your chances of living a full life.

The No. 1 Habit That Could Be a Sign of Brain Cancer

One habit that could be a sign of brain cancer is trying to mask a massive headache with over-the-counter remedies. Whether it’s habitually taking Aspirin, sitting in the dark, or trying to will yourself out of pain, these actions are important to note.

“Persistent headaches, especially new-onset severe headaches, with or without nausea, vomiting, or blurry vision, should be discussed with a healthcare provider immediately instead of relying on over-the-counter headache remedies,” Dr. Lobbous advises.

This is particularly true for individuals without a history of migraines. “Headaches accompanied by nausea in someone who does not have a history of migraines should be evaluated for a brain tumor,” says Dr. Jose Carrillo, MD, a board-certified neurologist and neuro-oncologist at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute and an associate professor of neurology at Providence Saint John’s Cancer Institute.

Another neurologist echoes these sentiments, adding that other red flags include continuous headaches that are typically generalized and worse in the morning or when bending forward. “These headaches should be evaluated for brain tumors or other issues,” says Dr. George Al Shamy, MD, a neurologist affiliated with Memorial Hermann.

Not every severe headache indicates brain cancer, but those with these characteristics should be checked to ensure peace of mind and potentially receive medication to help alleviate the pain.

Other Signs of Brain Cancer to Know About

Headaches and the constant quest to cover them up aren’t the only warning signs. Research published in 2021 highlighted headaches as a leading symptom of brain cancer, but not all cases present this way. It’s crucial to be aware of other signs.

If you find yourself needing constant reminders for simple tasks or forgetting names frequently, it’s worth discussing with a healthcare provider. “Over the years, many patients could have been diagnosed sooner if changes in their personality and memory were identified earlier,” Dr. Carrillo explains.

Additionally, note if you experience a persistent bad mood or feel like you’re becoming a different person. “Be aware of gradual changes in personality over several months,” warns Dr. Carrillo.

Dr. Lobbous mentions other symptoms of brain cancer:

  • Seizures
  • Vision changes
  • Weakness
  • Numbness
  • Cranial nerve symptoms (e.g., double vision, hearing changes, facial pain, facial numbness, difficulty swallowing or speaking)

These symptoms are sometimes mistaken for a stroke in emergency rooms, but the American Cancer Society notes that tests like MRIs can help detect or rule out brain tumors.

Brain Cancer Treatment, Prognosis, and Risk Reduction

There are treatments available for brain cancer. “Brain cancer is treated with surgery, radiation, or a combination of both,” explains Dr. Shamy. “Chemotherapeutic agents also play a role, alongside new treatment options like immunotherapy and electromagnetic therapy.”

Treatment plans are personalized, starting with an evaluation by a multidisciplinary team including neuro-oncology, neurosurgery, and radiation oncology, as noted by Dr. Lobbous. The type of tumor significantly affects the prognosis, with some tumors being curable and others, like gliomas, being treatable but not curable.

Scientists continue to study preventative methods for brain cancer. The only modifiable risk factor identified so far is exposure to ionizing radiation, such as radiotherapy for other cancers like childhood lymphoma. Despite studies examining cell phone use, dietary habits, and environmental pollutants, no other direct links to primary brain cancers have been found.

The best course of action is to stay attuned to your body and report any unusual symptoms to a healthcare provider.

The post This Type of Headache Could Mean Cancer appeared first on ProPakistani.