Neurosurgeon Dr Alex Leggate of Spire Nottingham Hospital has provided insight into the different types and grades of brain tumours, who is most at risk, associated symptoms, and whether lifestyle factors like diet and mobile phone use are linked to increased risk.
De Leggate explained that brain tumours are classified as either primary, starting in the brain, or metastatic, spreading from cancers elsewhere in the body.
The World Health Organization classification system grades brain tumours from 1–4:
- Grade 1. Cells that look similar to normal cells but are slow-growing If they grow to a large enough size or are in a particularly sensitive area of the brain, they can still cause problems
- Grade 2. Cells that are also slow-growing but look less like normal cells can spread into surrounding brain tissue and are more likely to change into a higher grade of tumour.
- Grade 3. bBrain tumours contain malignant, faster-growing cells that look more abnormal and can spread to other areas of the brain and spinal cord.
- Grade 4. Brain tumours are similar to grade 3 brain tumours but look even more abnormal, grow even faster, and are referred to as brain cancer.
The most common symptoms occur as tumours take up space in the skull and affect particular brain regions. These can include headaches, seizures, weakness, vision issues, confusion, and personality changes. Unfortunately, prevention is difficult as the causes are often random genetic mutations during cell division.
Risk does increase with age over 75 years and previous cancers. Family history can also be a factor, with certain genetic conditions linked to higher rates. Obesity has a small association, responsible for around 2% of cases.
Interestingly, primary brain cancers rarely spread beyond the brain for reasons not fully understood. The unique immune environment of the brain and the resistance of other organs are possible explanations.
Dr Leggate also countered some common myths around supposed brain cancer causes. He confirmed that there is currently no good evidence that keto diets prevent or control brain tumours. Research has also not found connections between mobile phone use and cancer.
Spire Healthcare is the largest private hospital group in the UK, with 39 sites across England, Wales, and Scotland. Alongside NHS patients, they provide care for those covered by insurance and self-paying individuals. Spire aims to deliver outstanding personalised care and the highest standards by collaborating with over 7,500 consultants.
In 2020 alone, Spire hospitals treated approximately 750,000 inpatients and day cases. As well as general services, they offer specialist treatment in areas like neurosurgery, cancer care, orthopaedics, cardiology, and women’s health.
Brain cancer research still faces challenges in understanding and treating these complex diseases. While some risk factors are known, causes often remain uncertain. Symptoms also vary significantly based on tumour location.
Surgery, radiation, and drug therapies help, but they can damage healthy brain tissue. More targeted treatments are needed to improve outcomes. For now, early detection offers the best prognosis.
Public awareness and education on the signs, as provided by experts like Dr Leggate, are therefore vital for spotting tumours when they are most treatable. Alongside research, this will help more patients survive or better manage these devastating diseases.