May is National Brain Tumor Awareness Month

Posted on 4/27/2018

May is National Brain Tumor Awareness Month, and the neurosurgeons of Palmetto Health-USC Neurosurgery want the community to be aware of risk factors, symptoms, advanced treatment options and the forming of a new support group for brain tumor survivors and their families.

Brain tumors can be benign, with no cancer cells, or malignant, with cancer cells, that grow quickly. More than 150 different brain tumors have been documented, but the two main groups are called primary and metastatic.

David Straus, M.D., neurosurgeon for Palmetto Health-USC Neurosurgery, is encouraged that the outlook for patients is much more positive than it has been in the past. He said, "In the past, the outcome for patients diagnosed with these tumors was very poor, with typical survival rates of just several weeks. More sophisticated diagnostic tools, in addition to innovative surgical and radiation approaches, have helped survival rates expand up to years and also allowed for an improved quality of life for patients."

Brain tumors commonly cause one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Headaches that may be more severe in the morning or awaken a person at night
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Difficulty speaking, thinking or articulating
  • Personality changes
  • Weakness or paralysis in one part or one side of the body
  • Loss of balance or dizziness
  • Vision changes
  • Hearing changes
  • Facial numbness or tingling
  • Nausea or vomiting, swallowing difficulties
  • Confusion and disorientation

Straus added, "Some people may not have any symptoms. Typically when a tumor is still small, a tumor is discovered incidentally during evaluation for another medical problem or during a screening test for an underlying cancer."

Risk factors can include:

  • Environmental factors such as being exposed to certain chemicals at home or work
  • Dietary factors such as eating or not eating certain foods
  • Lifestyle choices such as level of physical activity, tobacco and/or alcohol use
  • Genetic factors, or based on the characteristics we inherit from our parents 

Treatment for brain tumors is often a coordinated effort involving neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists and medical oncologists. Roham Moftakhar, M.D., chief of Neurosurgery at Palmetto Health Richland, said, "At Palmetto Health-USC Neurosurgery, we pride ourselves on offering the best care available for patients with any brain tumor. We offer subspecialized care from fellowship trained neurosurgeons who focus on complex cranial surgery. Biweekly brain tumor conferences with medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, neuropathologists, neuroradiologists and neurosurgeons ensure the best treatment strategies for our patients."

To assist brain tumor survivors and their families with support, Palmetto Health is sponsoring a "Brain Tumor Support Group" on the last Thursday of every month, 6-7 p.m., Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital, Warren Derrick Classroom, first floor.

For more information about Palmetto Health-USC Neurosurgery, visit PalmettoHealth.org or call CareCall at 803-296-CARE (2273). For more information about the support group, contact Elizabeth LaValley at Elizabeth.LaValley@PalmettoHealth.org or 803-434-8523.

 

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