Thursday, January 21, 2010

Brain Cancer Types, Causes, & Pictures

Brain Cancer Types

Cancer of the brain are abnormal growths of cells in the brain.
  • Although such growths are popularly called brain tumors, not all brain tumors are cancer. Cancer is a term reserved for malignant tumors.
  • Malignant tumors grow and spread aggressively, overpowering healthy cells by taking their space, blood, and nutrients. (Like all cells of the body, tumor cells need blood and nutrients to survive.)
  • Tumors that do not spread aggressively are called benign.
  • In general, a benign tumor is less serious than a malignant tumor. But a benign tumor can still cause many problems in the brain.

Primary Brain Cancers

The brain is made up of many different types of cells.
  • Some brain cancers occur when one type of cell transforms from its normal characteristics. Once transformed, the cells grow and multiply in abnormal ways.
  • As these abnormal cells grow, they become a mass, or tumor.
  • Brain tumors that result from this transformation and abnormal growth of brain cells are called primary brain tumors because they originate in the brain.
  • The most common primary brain tumors are gliomas, meningiomas, pituitary adenomas, vestibular schwannomas, and primitive neuroectodermal tumors (medulloblastomas). The term glioma includes astrocytomas, oligodendrogliomas, ependymomas, and choroid plexus papillomas.
  • Most of these are named after the part of the brain or the type of brain cell from which they arise.

Metastatic Brain Cancer

Metastatic brain tumors are made of cancerous cells from a tumor elsewhere in the body. The cells spread to the brain from another tumor in a process called metastasis. About 25% of tumors elsewhere in the body metastasize to the brain.
In the United States, brain tumors affect about 1 of every 5000 people.

Brain Cancer Causes

As with tumors elsewhere in the body, the exact cause of most brain tumors is unknown. Genetic factors, various environmental toxins, radiation, and cigarettesmoking have all been linked to cancers of the brain, but in most cases, no clear cause can be shown.
The following factors have been proposed as possible risk factors for primary brain tumors. Whether these factors actually increase your risk of a brain tumor is not known for sure.
  • Radiation to the head
  • Certain inherited conditions
  • HIV infection

Brain Cancer Pictures

MRI Brain Cancer Picture: Side view section through the brain of a young girl. The white arrow shows a brain tumor that involves the brainstem.
Brain Cancer MRI

MRI Brain Cancer Picture: Cross-section (image taken from the top of the head down) of a brain tumor in a young girl. The white arrow shows the tumor.
Brain Cancer MRI

7 Brain Boosters to Prevent Memory Loss

Experts share tips to help ward off age-related memory 

Baby boomers have long been spending millions to save their sagging skin, fix their crow's feet, and plump their lips. Now, however, boomers are turning to brain boosters to fight an invisible effect of aging: memory loss.
While body parts sag and wrinkle, the brain actually shrinks with age, neural connections slow down, and fewer nerve cells are created, experts explain.
The process begins as early as your 30s and affects tens of millions of Americans, leaving them not only frustrated but also causing a loss of self-confidence, social impairment, and loss of enjoyment of life that can sometimes lead to self-neglect and serious health issues.
To thwart age-related memory loss, many people have turned to brain exercises and brain games such as chess, crossword puzzles, reading aloud, brushing teeth, and computer games like MindFit and Posit Science that promise mental sharpness if you practice enough.
But do those activities really work?
To find out, WebMD turned to several experts who study the effect of aging on the brain. They say there are steps we can take to keep our brains younger. Here's what you can do

Brain Booster No.1: Exercise

Exercising is one of the most frequently cited activities to improve age-related memory.
"The one that has the most robust findings is physical exercise," says Molly Wagster, PhD, chief of the behavioral and systems neuroscience branch division of the National Institute on Aging.
And it helps if the exercise is aerobic, Wagster says. Studies have shown that older people who exercise -- and we're talking fairly easy exercise of moderate walking a few times a week -- outperformed couch potatoes after six months.
Experts do not fully understand why exercise helps boost brainpower, but it could be for several reasons. First, exercise diminishes stress, a key drain of brain energy, and it also helps overall health. It also helps people sleep better, which improves memory and keeps the blood flowing to all parts of your body.
"In general, what's good for the heart is good for the brain," says Gary Small, MD, director of the UCLA Center for Aging and author of iBrain, which examines, among other things the effect of the Internet on our brains.

Brain Booster No. 2: Eating a Rainbow of Fruits and Vegetables

Experts stress that people must pay attention to their diets and eat a variety offruits and vegetables, five to seven servings daily ranging from leafy greens to blueberries to tomatoes to sweet potatoes. While there is no one "brain food," antioxidants -- which are often found in fruits and vegetables -- help to curb free-radical damage to cells.
"Our brain kind of gets rusty with age," explains Small.
Also, experts say there's no magic brain vitamin or supplement that will protect against memory loss. P. Murali Doraiswamy, MD, chief of biological psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center and author of The Alzheimer's Action Plan, says that B vitamins may help, as could the spice turmeric, but that studies are inconclusive.

Brain Booster No. 3: Mental Workouts

To keep your brain sharp, many experts say, you need to challenge it regularly.
"It's just like it is with muscles," says Randolph Schiffer, MD, director of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.
There is some evidence that mental gymnastics can help preserve memory, but some of the promises of computer games outstrip the reality of the benefits, researchers say.
"Nothing has met the gold standard," explains Doraiswamy. "If they had, they'd all be sold as prescription drugs."
Still, the games can't hurt, says Brenda Plassman, PhD, a professor in the department of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center and the principal investigator of the Aging, Demographics and Memory Study. Plassman says she would simply caution older people not to spend money on something that hasn't been proved to work to help age-related memory loss.
"I would encourage people to look at various options for free," says Plassman.

Brain Booster No. 4: Sleep

Healthy sleep patterns are crucial for cognitive performance, especially memory, the experts say. That means at least seven hours of sleep each night.
Sleep is essential to lower levels of stress hormones, to relax and refresh your entire body, and to literally turn off your brain. "There are parts of sleep where memory gets archived," says Doraiswamy.
While it may be tempting to take over-the-counter -- or even prescription -- sleeping medications, be aware that many may impair memory. Check with your doctor about side effects of sleep medications, as well as all drugs.
Also, limit your intake of alcohol if you experience sleeping problems, as it can disrupt sleeping patterns.

Brain Booster No. 5: Red Wine

Some studies indicate that red wine is good for the heart and thus the brain, the experts say. Not all the reasons are understood, but many researchers believe red wine may be good for you because it contains the antioxidant resveratrol.
There is a possibility, however, that the benefits associated with red wine could come from other factors, such as the social aspect of wine drinking or income level associated with those who drink wine.
2007 study of elderly Italians showed that drinking alcohol in moderation may slow the progression to dementia in elderly people who already have mild mental declines. Defined in the study as less than one drink a day, low to moderate drinking was associated with a significantly slower progression to dementia among people with mild age-related cognitive declines, compared with nondrinkers.

Brain Booster No. 6: No More Multitasking

One of the biggest causes of failing to remember something, explains Small, is that "people aren't paying attention."
"As our brain ages, it's more difficult to do several things at once," says Plassman.
Multitasking thus becomes an impediment to remembering names, a recipe, or something you just read. That's because the brain first has to encode information before it can retrieve the information as memory. Unless the brain is paying attention and taking in the information it will later need, the brain cannot encode the information.

Brain Booster No 7: Learning New Memory Tricks

Small, who also authored the best-selling book The Memory Bible, says he teaches a technique called "look, snap, connect" in which participants are taught how to focus on someone or something and make a connection that will help them remember.
"These kinds of techniques can be learned very quickly," Small adds.
Long-practiced strategies such as linking a person's name to something else or another person are also helpful, or using sound associations, says Plassman. Check your local library, senior center, or hospital to see whether free classes might be offered.
While age-related memory loss is typically minor, be on the lookout for more serious memory loss in yourself or a loved one. "Forgetting where you parked your car is one thing," says Doraiswamy. "Forgetting that you have a car is another."
If memory loss is making an impact in your everyday life or getting worse, consult with a doctor.
Also, try to laugh a little about the age-related memory loss while doing what you can to curb it. While the loss is real, it's not as if you are losing control of your brain. The loss is relatively subtle, and in most cases, your brain still works like the incredible organ that it is.
"For many people, if you have a relatively good memory, forget about it," says Doraiswamy. "Shooting for the impossible (the memory we enjoyed in youth, for example) only induces stress."

Top 10 Brain Foods for Children

Give your child’s brain a nutritional boost.

Want your child to do better in school? Take a close look at diet. Certain "brain foods" may help  boost a child's brain growth -- plus improve brain function, memory, and concentration.
In fact, the brain is a very hungry organ -- the first of the body's organs to absorb nutrients from the food we eat, explains Bethany Thayer, MS, RD, a Detroit nutritionist and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association (ADA).
"Give the body junk food, and the brain is certainly going to suffer," she tells WebMD.
Growing bodies need many types of nutrients -- but these 10 superfoods will help kids get the most from school.

1. Brain Food: Salmon

Fatty fish like salmon are an excellent source of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA -- both essential for brain growth and function, says Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD, a Los Angeles nutritionist and ADA spokeswoman.
In fact, recent research has also shown that people who get more of these fatty acids in their diet have sharper minds and do better at mental skills tests.
While tuna is also a source of omega-3s, it's not a rich source like salmon, Giancoli tells WebMD.
"Tuna is definitely a good source of lean protein, but because it's so lean it's not very high in omega-3s like canned salmon is," Giancoli tells WebMD. Also, albacore "white" tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna, so the EPA advises eating no more than 6 ounces of albacore tuna weekly.
Eat more salmon: Instead of tuna sandwiches, make salmon salad for sandwiches -- canned salmon mixed with reduced-fat mayo or non-fat plain yogurt, raisins, chopped celery, and carrots (plus a little Dijon mustard if your child likes the taste). Serve on whole-grain bread -- which is also a brain food.
Soup idea: Add canned salmon to creamy broccoli soup -- plus frozen chopped broccoli for extra nutrition and soft texture. Boxed soups make this an easy meal, and are generally low in fat and calories, Giancoli says. Look for organic boxed soups in the health food section.
Make salmon patties -- using 14 oz. canned salmon, 1 lb. frozen chopped spinach (thawed and drained), 1/2 onion (finely chopped), 2 garlic cloves (pressed), 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper to taste. Combine ingredients. Mix well. Form into small balls. Heat olive oil in pan, flatten spinach balls with spatula. Cook over medium heat. Serve over brown rice (instant or frozen).

2. Brain Food: Eggs

Eggs are well-known as a great protein source -- but the egg yolks are also packed with choline, which helps memory development.
Eat more eggs: Send your child off to school with a grab-and-go breakfast egg burrito. Try breakfast for dinner one night a week -- scrambled eggs and toast. Make your own egg McMuffin at home: just put a fried egg on top of a toasted English muffin, topped with a slice of low-fat cheese.

3. Brain Food: Peanut Butter

"Peanuts and peanut butter are a good source of vitamin E, a potent antioxidant that protects nervous membranes -- plus thiamin to help the brain and nervous system use glucose for energy," says Giancoli.
Eat more peanut butter: For a twist on an old favorite, make a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Dip apple slices in peanut butter. Or, top off your favorite salad with a handful of peanuts.

4. Brain Food: Whole Grains

The brain needs a constant supply of glucose -- and whole grains provide that in spades. The fiber helps regulate the release of glucose into the body, Giancoli explains. "Whole grains also have B-vitamins, which nourish a healthy nervous system."
Eat more whole grains: It's easy to find more whole grain cereals these days (make sure a whole grain is the first ingredient listed). But also think outside the box -- and try whole wheat couscous for dinner with cranberries, or low-fat popcorn for a fun snack, she suggests.
Whole-grain bread is a must for sandwiches. Switch to whole-grain tortillas and chips for quesadillas, wraps, and snacks.

5. Brain Food: Oats/Oatmeal

Oats are one of the most familiar hot cereals for kids and a very nutritious “grain for the brain,” says Sarah Krieger, MPH, RD, LD/N, a St. Petersburg, Fla. consultant and ADA spokeswoman. "Oats provide excellent energy or fuel for the brain that kids need first thing in the morning."
Loaded with fiber, oats keep a child’s brain fed all morning at school. Oats also are good sources of vitamin E, B-vitamins, potassium and zinc -- which make our bodies and brains function at full capacity.
Eat more oats: Top hot oatmeal with pretty much anything -- applesauce and cinnamon, dried fruit and soy milk, sliced almonds and a drizzle of honey, fresh banana and a dash of nutmeg with skim milk, Krieger suggests.
Cooking? Throw a handful of dry oats into a smoothie to make it thick -- or into pancake, muffin, waffle or a granola bar recipe.
Here’s a simple snack kids can make: 1 cup peanut butter, ½ cup honey, 1 cup dry oats, ½ cup dry milk powder. Mix it up with your hands -- then put a tablespoon between 2 apple or pear slices for a fun and different sandwich!

6. Brain Food: Berries

Strawberries, cherries, blueberries, blackberries. "In general, the more intense the color, the more nutrition in the berries," Krieger says. Berries boast high levels of antioxidants, especially vitamin C, which may help prevent cancer.
Studies have shown improved memory with the extracts of blueberries and strawberries. "But eat the real thing to get a more nutritious package," Krieger says. "The seeds from berries are also a good source of omega-3 fats.."
Eat more berries: Add berries to veggies that may need a flavor boost -- like sliced sweet cherries with broccoli or strawberries with green beans. Toss berries into a green salad. Add chopped berries to a jar of salsa for an excellent flavor surprise.
More berry ideas: Add berries to yogurt, hot or cold cereal, or dips. For a light dessert, top a mound of berries with nonfat whipped topping, Krieger suggests.

7. Brain Food: Beans

Beans are special because they have energy from protein and complex carbs -- and fiber -- plus lots of vitamins and minerals, Krieger says. "These are an excellent brain food since they keep a child's energy and thinking level at peak all afternoon if they enjoy them with lunch."
Kidney and pinto beans contain more omega 3 fatty acids than other beans -- specifically ALA, another of the omega-3’s important for brain growth and function, says Krieger.
Eat more beans: Sprinkle beans over salad and top with salsa. Mash vegetarian beans and spread on a tortilla. Mash or fill a pita pocket with beans -- and add shredded lettuce and low-fat cheese. Add beans to spaghetti sauce and salsa. Infants love mashed beans with applesauce!

8. Brain Food: Colorful Veggies

Tomatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, spinach -- vegetables with rich, deep color are the best sources of antioxidants that keep brain cells strong and healthy, Thayer says.
Eat more veggies: Try sweet potato fries: Cut up in wedges or sticks. Spray them with vegetable oil cooking spray and then bake them in the oven (400 degrees, 20 minutes or until they start to brown).
Make pumpkin muffins: Mix 1 15-ounce can of pumpkin with a box of your favorite cake or muffin mix. Stir the two ingredients together and follow the directions.
Baby carrots and tiny tomatoes fit nicely into lunch bags. Kids love spinach salads with lots of stuff in them -- like strawberries, mandarin oranges, sliced almonds. Another trick: Sneak all sorts of chopped veggies into spaghetti sauce, soups, and stews.

9. Brain Food: Milk & Yogurt

Dairy foods are packed with protein and B-vitamins -- essential for growth of brain tissue, neurotransmitters, and enzymes. "Milk and yogurt also provide a bigger punch with both protein and carbohydrates – the preferred source of energy for the brain," Thayer says.
Recent research suggests that children and teens need 10 times more the recommended dose of vitamin D -- a vitamin that benefits the neuromuscular system and the overall life cycle of human cells.
Eat more dairy: Low-fat milk over cereal -- and calcium- and vitamin D-fortified juices -- are easy ways to get these essential nutrients. Cheese sticks are great snacks.
Low-fat yogurt parfaits are also fun. In a tall glass, layer yogurt with berries (fresh, frozen, or dried) and chopped nuts (almonds or walnuts), Thayer suggests.

10. Brain Food: Lean Beef (or Meat Alternative)

Iron is an essential mineral that helps kids stay energized and concentrate at school. Lean beef is one of the best absorbed sources of iron. In fact, just 1 ounce per day has been shown to help the body absorb iron from other sources. Beef also contains zinc, which helps with memory.
For vegetarians, black bean and soy burgers are great iron-rich meatless options. Beans are an important source of nonheme iron -- a type of iron that needs vitamin C to be absorbed. Eat tomatoes, red bell pepper, orange juice, strawberries, and other "Cs" with beans to get the most iron.
For a burger-less source of iron -- try spinach. It's packed with nonheme iron, too.
Eat more iron: For dinner, grill kebobs with beef chunks and veggies. Or stir-fry a bit of beef with kids' favorite veggies. Grill black bean or soy burgers, then top with salsa or a tomato slice. Or, chow down on a spinach salad (with mandarin oranges and strawberries for vitamin C).

Running Boosts Brainpower

Going for a Jog Builds Brain Cells, Study Finds

Jan. 19, 2010 -- Running may do more than improve your cardiovascular fitness and overall physique. It might actually make you smarter.
Scientists reporting in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences say that running has a profound impact on the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory. Adult mice that voluntarily used running wheels increased their number of brain cells and performed better at spatial learning tests than non-exercising mice, they discovered.
Spatial learning refers to the ability to navigate through or discriminate between the unfamiliar -- such as telling the difference between two patterns, or finding your way around a new city. Spatial memory refers to how you remember the location or layout of the objects in the space around you. You record spatial memories after processing key sensory information, such as what you see and hear. Animals use spatial memory to remember where their food bowl is located. Mice, for example, learn this by scrambling through a maze to find the food at the end.
In the latest spatial learning experiment, researchers learned that the running mice were better able to tell the difference between the locations of two adjacent identical stimuli. This ability was closely linked to an increase in new brain cell growth in the hippocampus. Ongoing mice experiments have repeatedly shown that running boosts the number of new brain cells in this area. Until the late 1990s, neuroscientists believed that we did not grow new brain cells after birth.
Today, mounting evidence continues to reveal that exercise triggers significant physiological and structural changes in the brain that are beneficial to cognitive function.