Symptoms of end-stage brain cancer include:
- Disorientation or confusion
- Persistent headache
- Nausea and vomiting
- Vision changes
- Weakness or paralysis
- Memory changes
- Loss of balance
- Cancer cachexia
- Lack of interest in surroundings
- Loss of appetite
- Cold hands and feet
- Breathing changes (such as rapid or shallow breathing, brief pauses between breaths, a rattling sound while breathing)
- Decreased urination or passing dark-colored urine
- Altered perceptions, such as delusions or hallucinations
- Changes in bowel habits (diarrhea or constipation)
- Loss of bowel and bladder control
- Personality changes
- Speech difficulties
Although brain cancer can be cured when detected early, many patients are diagnosed quite late or do not respond well to treatment. Understanding the signs of end-stage brain cancer can help patients and their families be better prepared for the inevitable, as well as seek timely palliative care to ensure the most comfortable end-of-life experience possible.
Palliative care helps patients and their caregivers better cope with the disease. It involves a combination of medications, physical rehabilitation, dietary care, counseling, and other relevant services.
What are different types of brain cancer?
Although the terms brain tumor and brain cancer are often used interchangeably, they are not entirely the same. Not all brain tumors are cancerous or malignant. Brain cancer may start in the brain itself (primary tumor) or result from the spread of cancer from other sites in the body (metastasis or secondary cancer).
Brain cancer is typed based on the cells that form the tumors:
- Acoustic neuroma
- Pituitary tumor
Glioblastoma (also called glioblastoma multiforme) is the most aggressive type of brain tumor. It develops from astrocytes, which are the most abundant types of cells in the brain.
What are the survival rates for brain cancer?
Brain cancer survival rates largely depend on:
- Type of tumor
- Site of the tumor
- Grade of the tumor
- How early the cancer is diagnosed and treated
- Patient’s general health and underlying conditions
Tumor grades are determined by examining the tumor cells under a microscope. Brain tumors are graded from I to IV, with grade I being noncancerous and IV being the most aggressive. Grade IV tumors grow rapidly and spread to different sites in the body. The higher the grade, the poorer the prognosis.
Studies suggest that the 5-year survival (percentage of patients who will live at least 5 years) of patients with brain tumors range from 5%-86%. Survival rates are generally better in children and young adults than in older individuals.
|Brain tumor type||5-year relative survival rates|
|Ages 20-44||Ages 45-54||Ages 55-64|
|Low-grade (diffuse) astrocytoma||73%||46%||26%|
These survival rates are approximations, and individual prognosis may vary. Consult your doctor to know more about your own prognosis.
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Johns Hopkins Medicine. Brain Tumors and Brain Cancer. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/brain-tumor
National Institutes of Health. Advanced Cancer. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/advanced-cancer
American Cancer Society. Survival Rates for Selected Adult Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/brain-spinal-cord-tumors-adults/detection-diagnosis-staging/survival-rates.html
National Institutes of Health. Last Days of Life (PDQ®)–Patient Version. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/advanced-cancer/caregivers/planning/last-days-pdq
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