By Juliet Ebirim
The brain is a complex organ that is vulnerable to trauma, infections, tumors, drugs including alcohol, metabolic disorders, among others.
World Brain Tumor Day held last month with the theme “Together We Are Stronger” to raise awareness about brain tumors and dispel related misconceptions.
Heeding the advocacy call-to-action for increased awareness, Dr. Edward Jolayemi a Neurosurgeon at Evercare Hospital, Lekki, Lagos has provided valuable insight about brain tumors, the risk factors, symptoms and treatment options. Jolayemi, whose competence spans the fields of neuro- trauma, neuro-oncology, paediatric neurosurgery, pituitary surgery, neurovascular and spine surgeries, is experienced in a diverse range of brain and spine pathologies.
In a statement, he reveals that the cause of brain tumors is largely unknown. “However, risk factors include family history of brain tumors, genetics, exposure to ionizing radiation, certain chemicals, and viruses. There have been studies to define the association of brain tumors with the use of cell phones, but no convincing data has emanated. However, there is suggestion that chronic use of cell phones for at least 10-years may increase the risk. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends limiting cell phone use and promotes the use of hands-free headset. Symptoms in persons with brain tumors include acute or persistent headache, often worse in the early hours of the morning and associated with vomiting.”
Shedding light on what brain tumors are, he stated “It can be classified as benign or malignant, or as primary or secondary. Benign tumors are non- cancerous, tend to grow slowly and have less chance of recurring once completely removed at surgery. Malignant tumors however are cancerous and often grow rapidly, with high propensity to recur despite surgical intervention. Primary tumors arise from structures within and around the brain whilst secondary tumors get to the brain via spread (metastasis) from other tumors like breast, lung, thyroid cancers, etc.”
Dr. Jolayemi however stated that treatment options for brain tumors include surgery. “The goal of surgery is complete tumor removal, preservation of normal brain function, and acquisition of tumor sample for laboratory confirmation of its nature. These surgeries are done by neurosurgeons who employ a wide range of gadgetry to safely take out the tumor. In some instances, especially in the Nigerian setting where late presentation to the hospital is common, complete brain tumor removal may not be feasible. In such scenarios, the surgeon may plan a subsequent surgery or offer other treatment modalities to address the residual tumor.”
According to him, the prognosis (expectation or outcome) in patients with brain tumors depends on a host of factors such as the tumor type, size, the presence or absence of brain deficits, patient’s age and fitness level, co-existing illness, etc. The role of multidisciplinary care and rehabilitation therapy in managing patients with brain tumors is critical. As the phrase goes, “Time is Brain”. In pathologies relating to the brain, be it trauma, infection, tumors, stroke, etc, it cannot be over- emphasized that early diagnosis and treatment is crucial.
He concluded by adding that, “Brain tumor survivors and individuals with brain tumors require support. With appropriate treatment, they have a chance of leading normal lives like people without tumors. Let’s spread love and not stigmatization. Together, we are stronger.” he said.