Go Gray in May!
Gather ‘round, everyone, it’s time for another edition of the awareness blog! Today’s topic is a very important one, especially to us, here at Personalized Cause. So, today’s post is dedicated to a beloved member of our family, gone but not forgotten. I truly hope that nobody reading this post ever needs to use the information to follow, but if you do, I hope from the bottom of my heart that this post leads to early detection and diagnosis, so that the prognosis is as good as possible. And with that, we’ll begin.
Today’s awareness blog topic is in honor of Brain Tumor Awareness Month. Brain tumors need a lot more than just one month of awareness raising, but there’s no such thing as an awareness year, yet, so this will have to do. A friend of a friend just lost her perfectly healthy husband in his early 40’s. In only a matter of months he went from the picture of health to hospice. That’s why awareness for brain tumors is so crucial, because finding and treating it early can be the difference between life and death. I don’t mean to scare anyone at all, only to iterate how critical it is to know the symptoms and warning signs.
What is a brain tumor? Tumor simply means a mass of abnormal cell growth. Tumors are not always cancerous, or dangerous. There are lots of tumors that are benign, or harmless, and sometimes they don’t even need to be removed. With the brain, however, even a benign tumor in the wrong place can cause problems. But today, we’re focusing on malignant, in other words cancerous, brain tumors. Malignant brain tumors often grow much quicker than benign tumors, making them a particularly progressive and aggressive cancer. Although brain tumors rarely metastasize, meaning that they spread to other organs, they do invade surrounding brain tissue very fast, and may spread to the central nervous system.
One of the trickiest things about detecting a brain tumor early is recognizing the symptoms, because symptoms vary greatly depending on where the tumor is located and what type of tumor it is. The general symptoms of a brain tumor are:
• Persistent, recurring headaches that do not respond to normal headache treatments, such as over the counter pain or migraine medicines. It is very important to note that most headaches are not a tumor. A headache is usually not cause for concern. If you are experiencing frequent headaches in combination with other general symptoms, then it’s a good idea to be seen by your medical provider ASAP. Even then, there are many other health issues that the symptoms could be attributed to.
• Dizziness and fainting, especially in people who do not normally experience dizziness or fainting. (I know that it seems strange to consider dizziness or fainting a normal thing for anyone to experience regularly. I say that because there are a lot of people out there with other medical issues who do experience dizziness or fainting somewhat regularly. For example, I have something called POTS, which means I deal with those symptoms pretty frequently. If I were to experience dizziness or fainting accompanied by a headache, it wouldn’t be particularly worrisome. It’s all about what is unusual to the person. Everyone’s normal is different. Recognizing the symptoms that are outside a person’s normal is key to detection.)
• Vomiting, especially when unexplained and it occurs intermittently over a duration longer than that of a typical cold or flu.
• Motor function impairment is a more serious indication that something is wrong. Sudden motor impairment such as difficulty speaking, walking, or balancing should be evaluated by a doctor.
• Sensory perception changes are another symptom, although many senses naturally get worse as we age. Again, the key here is sudden or unusual changes. This may include a sudden change in vision or need for glasses, a sudden change in hearing, or changes in your ability to taste, smell, or feel (through touch).
• Unexplained paralysis in part of the body, or unexplained weakness in part of the body. You should see a doctor for those symptoms, because they can indicate a wide range of problems not related to a brain tumor.
• Seizures. Always see a doctor if you have experienced a seizure and do not have an already diagnosed medical issue that causes seizures.
• Changes in mood, personality, or thought process. This can manifest in sudden impulsivity, or recklessness, depression, uncontrollable laughter, memory problems, concentration problems, etc.
• Abnormal breathing or pulse. Because the brain regulates breathing and pulse, they can be affected, as all autonomic nervous system functions can be, potentially.
What should you do if you notice these changes in yourself or others? Well, you should definitely see a doctor! Duh! Many of these symptoms can be due to other medical issues, but that’s not an excuse to not be evaluated. The thing about a lot of these symptoms is that they indicate that something is wrong in the CNS, ANS, or brain. Many of these symptoms can occur from autoimmune diseases, as well. No matter what the cause, these symptoms can be warning signs that require treatment in order to prevent further damage or illness. And, of course, this should go without saying, but annual physicals are very important. Routine physicals can give you a baseline for your health, to determine when something is new or different. Physicals can also show general health trends, which can predict future health concerns.
If you’re like a lot of other people, the fear of diagnostic testing can be a total deterrent from making that doctors appointment to get looked at, and as we know, the longer you put off seeing a doctor, the worse the outcome may be. So, what I want to do is go over what many of the diagnostic tools are so that it takes the fear of the unknown out of the picture. Knowing what to expect can seriously help reduce anxiety regarding doctor visits.
The first step in diagnosing any illness is a comprehensive physical. THIS IS A PAINLESS PROCESS! I cannot stress that enough. The worst part about these kinds of physicals is just answering a million questions, and doing a little digging with relatives to find out your family health history prior to the appointment.
They will preform a neurological exam, too, to look for any noticeable signs decreased function. The worst part with those is having a light shined in your eyes, or being cold in your paper gown.
If the doctor suspects there may be a brain tumor, or maybe just to be safe, they will order a CT scan or an MRI. These scans are pretty easy-peasy, and the biggest complaint with them is that they are loud and it may be a tad claustrophobic for some.
Next step in diagnostics is an MRA, or possibly an angiogram. These work by giving the patient some dye so that can use X-rays to image the brain and see blood flow or abnormal blood vessels. This can tell doctors a lot about a brain tumor. As far as angiograms go, they’re not the best and they’re not the worst. Basically, the worst part is just that they have to make a small incision in your arm or leg to thread a catheter into so that they can release the dye. Other than that it’s just a lot of X-rays and imagine. MRA’s are a lot like MRI’s but they are more specifically designed for blood vessel imaging.
The last diagnostic test, which isn’t always ordered, is a biopsy. This is on the scarier side, as far as tests go, just because it involves actually going into the brain to take out a sample of the tumor to determine if it is malignant or benign. As far as your experience with the test, either you will be sedated or numbed, and shouldn’t feel anything.
There you have it; a basic overview of possible symptoms of a brain tumor, what to do if you have those symptoms, and what testing may occur. I hope that all this information is never needed, and that you all go on to live perfectly healthy, and happy lives. If you do end up needing it, I hope this post helps you in some way. Remember, early detection is key. In the wise words of Spock, “live long and prosper!” If you are new to our awareness blog, let me tell you a little about who we are and why we’ve started this blog. Personalized Cause is an awareness accessory company that specializes in custom awareness ribbons. Custom awareness ribbons are a product unique to our company, which allow you to personalize the awareness ribbon color of your choice with any name, date, phrase or message. Custom awareness ribbon pins are a beautiful way to show support, advocate for yourself and others, and raise awareness for whatever cause is close to your heart. We also carry classic awareness ribbons, fabric awareness ribbons, and silicone wristbands.
Personalized Cause started this blog in an effort to raise awareness for as many illnesses as possible. We hope that our readers learn something that helps them to prevent illness in their lives, or helps them to recognize signs or symptoms early so that they are diagnosed early. Prevention and early diagnosis are key to living your best possible life, and we just want you to be happy and healthy forever. We also hope to correct a lot of misinformation and misconceptions out there associated with illnesses or causes, in an effort to end stigma and contribute to a more understanding and accepting culture. We hope you’ll come back next week!
Brain tumors are represented by a gray awareness ribbon. To order a gray custom awareness ribbon, visit:
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