New statistics suggest the number of people diagnosed with brain tumours has risen by 30% in the last 20 years.
According to data from Public Health Scotland, the number has risen from 822 in 2000-02, to 1,069 in 2017-19.
“These worrying figures show just how urgently we need to act on this devastating and life-changing disease,” said Dr David Jenkinson, the Brain Tumour Charity’s chief scientific officer.
He added: “While brain tumours remain relatively rare, incidence has continued to rise significantly over the last two decades, and this has unfortunately not yet been matched by the tangible progress in diagnosis, treatment and survival outcomes seen in many other cancers.”
The charity claims progress for brain tumours has continued to lag behind survival improvements seen in other diseases.
Just 12% of UK adults survive for five years after a brain tumour diagnosis, with the disease continuing to reduce life expectancy by 27 years on average — the highest of any cancer.
So what are those potential symptoms? Remember, none of these automatically mean you have a brain tumour, but if you are concerned, see your GP. Dr Catherine McBain, a consultant clinical oncologist at The Christie in Manchester, one of the hospitals to be named a Tessa Jowell Centre of Excellence, outlines seven possible signs which may be linked to brain tumours…
If you have a fit or a seizure out of the blue, you should go to A&E, where an urgent brain scan would be considered.
2. Weakness of the face/arm/leg on one side of the body
Such weakness may come on suddenly, like a stroke, or may become more noticeable gradually over a few weeks, for example dragging your leg or tripping over kerbs because you don’t seem to be able to lift your foot up properly.
3. Marked speech disturbance
Slurred speech, being unable to find your words or coming out with the wrong words. Struggling to find a word sometimes is normal; but it would become worrying if it was becoming steadily worse over a period of weeks or months, and was associated with other symptoms.
4. Personality change
People who have a brain tumour may become steadily more withdrawn or confused over a period of a few months, or struggle with tasks they used to be able to do, such as playing an instrument or doing internet banking.
5. Vision changes
Sometimes, tumours in the brain reduce our ability to see objects to one side. This might cause people to bump into doorframes, not be able to see someone sitting on the left or right side, or clip the wing mirrors of parked cars if driving. If you’re concerned about vision changes, begin 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 over a few weeks, you’re increasingly struggling to write emails or send texts, or to work out what subtitles or words in a book say – you may be able to see the words clearly, but the brain refuses to interpret them or make sense of them.
Headaches are the symptom most people associate with brain tumours, but it’s actually relatively unusual for headache to be the only symptom of a brain tumour. When it comes to being concerned about brain tumours, doctors talk about ‘headache plus’, meaning headache plus other symptoms. Worrying headaches are those which have become ‘clearly, definitely and progressively worse’ over a period of two to three months, and which become associated with some of the other symptoms.
If headache is the only symptom, it’s usually a headache which is different to any headache you’ve ever had before, and which becomes much more severe very quickly, over a period of a few weeks. It may be present in the morning, waking you from sleep, or become associated with nausea, vomiting and drowsiness.
For further information, see thebraintumourcharity.org
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