World Brain Tumour Day

World Brain Tumour Day is celebrated annually on 8 June. It was announced in 2000 by the the Deutsche Hirntumorhilfe as an international commemoration day paying tribute to all brain tumour patients and their families and to educate the public concerning the effects and treatments of Brain tumours. The “Deutsche Hirntumorhilfe e.V.” (German Brain Tumor Association) is a non-profit organisation based in Leipzig which provides information and support to brain tumor patients. Since its founding in 1998 more than 500 members from fourteen nations have been registered. The association is supported by patients and their family members as well as health professionals and scientists. A key goal is to seek a cure for brain tumours.

A brain tumouroccurs when abnormal cells form within the brain. There are two main types of tumour: malignant or cancerous tumors and benign tumours. Cancerous tumors can be divided into primary tumours that start within the brain, and secondary tumours that have spread from somewhere else, known as brain metastasis tumours. Brain tumours produce varying symptoms depending on the part of the brain involved These may include headaches, seizures, problem with vision, vomiting, and mental changes. The headache is normally worse in the morning and goes away with vomiting. More specific problems may include difficulty in walking, speaking, and with sensation. As the disease progresses unconsciousness may occur

The cause of most brain tumours is unknown. Uncommon risk factors include inherited neurofibromatosis, exposure to vinyl chloride, Epstein–Barr virus, and ionizing radiation. The evidence for mobile phones is not clear. The most common types of primary tumors in adults are meningiomas (usually benign), and astrocytomas such as glioblastomas. In children, the most common type is a malignant medulloblastoma. Diagnosis is usually by medical examination along with computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging. This is then often confirmed by a biopsy. Based on the findings, the tumors are divided into different grades of severity.

Treatment may include some combination of surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and Anticonvulsant medication which may be needed if seizures occur. Dexamethasone and furosemide may be used to decrease swelling around the tumour. Some tumours grow gradually, requiring only monitoring and possibly needing no further intervention. Treatments that use a person’s immune system are being studied. Outcome varies depending on the type of tumour and how far it has spread at diagnosis. Glioblastomas usually have poor outcomes while meningiomas usually have good outcomes. The average five-year survival rate for all brain cancer in the United States is 33%.

Secondary or metastatic brain tumours are more common than primary brain tumours, with about half of metastases coming from lung cancer. Primary brain tumors occur in around 250,000 people a year globally, making up less than 2% of cancers. In children younger than 15, brain tumors are second only to acute lymphoblastic leukemia as the most common form of cancer. In Australia the average lifetime economic cost of a case of brain cancer is $1.9 million, the greatest of any type of cancer.

The Deutsche Hirntumorhilfe supports science and research especially in the field of neuro-oncology. According to its motto “Knowledge Creates Future”, the association has a special interest in the advancement of scientific research. Apart from providing recent information about therapy standards and proceedings to brain tumor patients, the organisation supports neuro-oncological research projects and facilitates the international transfer of knowledge. The promotion of interdisciplinary cooperation of all the areas of expertise involved in the treatment of brain tumors is one of its major aims.

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