Seven possible brain tumor symptoms to watch out for

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Although brain tumors are relatively rare, around 12,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with it each year – including celebrities such as tenor Russell Watson, musician and actor Martin Kemp and lead singer of The Wanted Tom Parker.

The latest case in the news was 12-year-old Grace Kelly from Oadby, Leicestershire, who was diagnosed during a routine SpecSavers visit before she tragically died before the £200,000 needed to fund her treatment could be raised.

The late former cabinet minister Baroness Tessa Jowell was another public figure who had a brain tumor. She died in 2018, aged 70, a year after her diagnosis.

Before her death, Baroness Jowell made it clear that she wanted to help transform brain tumor treatment, research and survival to provide the best possible care for all patients.

Four years later, her dream is becoming a reality Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission (TJBCM)—an organization founded in her name—has awarded nine neurocenters across the country “Tessa Jowell Centers of Excellence” status, recognizing the exceptional care and treatment they provide.

Jowell’s daughter, Jess Mills, co-founder of TJBCM, says her mother’s goal was to end systemic inequality: “So it was tragic, though fitting, that her last campaign was to create universal equality in access to excellence in cancer care throughout the ages. NHS It is with immense pride that just three years later we started to realize this vision.

“It is shocking that the UK still has one of the worst cancer survival rates in Europe, but in time the Tessa Jowell Centers will make the UK a world leader in the treatment and care of brain tumor patients. We still have a long way to go, but this is a great first step.”

Dr Catherine McBain, Consultant Clinical Oncologist at Christie in Manchester, one of the hospitals to be nominated as a Center of Excellence, Tessa Jowell points out: “While all neurocentres provide high quality care, the nine nominated centers are recognized for going above and beyond for their patients.

“While a brain tumor diagnosis can be devastating, patients should be reassured that NHS staff across the country are working hard to provide the best possible care today while working towards a cure tomorrow.”

Sarah Lindsell, Executive Director Brain tumor charitysays the Tessa Jowell Awards are “a huge step forward in raising standards for brain tumor patients.”

“Early detection remains a critical and unique challenge in brain tumors,” adds Lindsell.

“The signs can sometimes be vague and many of the most common symptoms, such as persistent headaches or coordination problems, can have various other causes that may or may not be serious.

“We encourage anyone who has symptoms that are unusual for them – especially if they experience a combination of symptoms or if these symptoms are persistent or unexplained – to be seen by a GP.”

McBain explains that symptoms that may indicate a brain tumor are usually changes that develop and worsen over a period of weeks to months, with additional symptoms appearing during this time.

“Aside from an attack that may come on its own, most people will have a combination of symptoms that develop and become more noticeable over a period of two to three months,” says Dr. McBain.

“This is a situation you should talk to your GP about.”

So what are these possible symptoms?

Remember that none of these automatically mean you have a brain tumour, but if you’re concerned, see your GP.

1. Attacks

If you experience a seizure or seizure all of a sudden, you should go to an emergency center to consider an emergency brain scan.

2. Weakness of the face/arm/leg on one side of the body

Such weakness may come on suddenly, like a stroke, or become more noticeable gradually over several weeks, such as from dragging your leg or tripping over curbs because you can’t seem to lift your leg properly.

3. Marked speech disorder

Slurred speech, not being able to find words, or coming out with the wrong words. Sometimes it is difficult to find the word normal, but it would become a concern for a brain tumor if it steadily worsened over a period of weeks or months and was associated with other symptoms.

4. Personality change

People who have a brain tumor may become increasingly withdrawn or confused over the course of a few months, or have trouble doing tasks they were previously able to do, such as playing an instrument or doing online banking.

5. Vision changes

Sometimes brain tumors reduce our ability to see objects to one side. This can cause people to crash into door frames, be unable to see someone sitting on the left or right, or snap into the side mirrors of parked cars while driving. If you are concerned about vision changes, start by seeing an optician who can perform a full eye test and refer you to hospital if necessary.

6. Difficulty reading or interpreting words

You may notice that after a few weeks you struggle more and more to write emails or text or figure out what subtitles or words in a book say – you can see the words clearly but your brain refuses to interpret them or make sense of them.

7. Headaches

Headaches are a symptom most people associate with brain tumors, but it’s actually relatively uncommon for a headache to be the only symptom of a brain tumor.

When it comes to concerns about brain tumors, doctors talk about “headache plus,” meaning headache plus other symptoms. Headaches of concern are those that have become “obviously, definitely and progressively worse” over a period of two to three months and are associated with some other symptoms.

If a headache is the only symptom, it’s usually a headache that’s unlike any headache you’ve ever had, and it gets much worse very quickly, within a few weeks. It may be present in the morning, wake you up from sleep, or be associated with nausea, vomiting, and drowsiness.

For additional information, see Brain tumor charity.

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