John Mccain’s death last August from glioblastoma was a pointed reminder that while brain tumours aren’t the most common cancer, the fact that they occur in one of the most complex, still-not-understood organs makes them especially scary. Scientists are discovering more about the brain and nervous system, but still can’t pinpoint why rogue cells gang up there and are cancerous in about one in 143 guys. But treatments have progressed, and these tumours can be more treatable the earlier they’re detected. So it’s smart to know the symptoms, whether to ease your mind or to seek diagnosis quickly.
SPOT THE SIGNS
There are more than 100 different types of brain tumour, some more common than others. Symptoms can be vague and vary in intensity as well as location, depending on where the tumour is and the amount of pressure associated with it. Symptoms may develop quickly or creep up gradually, says Barbara O’Brien, M.D., an assistant professor of neuro-oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and they progress over time. They’re not usually like those of a stroke, which tend to come on suddenly. And, she says, “if you just have one headache or just have difficulty getting your words out on one occasion, it’s probably not a tumour.” But if any of the following four symptoms develop and worsen over a month or two, call your physician.