There are two types of brain cancer, metastatic and primary. Metastatic brain tumors originated from another organ, such as the lung or breast. Primary brain tumors originate in the brain itself. This is an important point, because metastatic and primary brain cancers are usually treated in different ways. Metastatic brain tumors are more common than primary brain tumors.
Unlike other cancers, brain tumors rarely metastasize to distant organs. Brain cancer causes damage because it spreads locally and destroys normal tissue. Treatments for brain cancer may include surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. However, because brain cancer is impossible to completely remove, the cancer may grow and eventually lead to death.
Most brain cancer starts in astrocyte cells. These tumors are called astrocytomas. Most astrocytomas cannot be cured because they spread widely throughout the surrounding normal brain tissue. Astrocytomas are divided into three categories:
1. Low-grade Astrocytomas - slowest growing; average survival time 6 to 8 years
2. Anaplastic Astrocytomas - moderate growth; average survival time 3 years
3. Glioblastomas - fastest growing; average survival time 1 to 1.5 years
Oligodendrogliomas is another type of brain cancer that starts in the oligodendrocytes cells. It spreads in a manner similar to astrocytomas and, in most cases, cannot be completely removed by surgery. The survival time for this cancer is six to eight years. However, there are a small number of long-term survival cases, where people lived for thirty to forty years after diagnosis.
End-of-life care for brain cancer patients in advanced stages involves seeing a barrage of doctors, nurses and therapists. Patients can be treated in their homes or in the care of a hospital. During this time of need, the last thing that you or your loved ones should be worrying about is money. Unfortunately health care costs for brain cancer treatments are expensive and those services may or may not be covered by your insurance.
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*(National Cancer Society - Cancer Facts & Figures 2002)