May is Brain Cancer and Tumor Awareness Month

May is Brain Cancer and Tumor Awareness Month

Go Gray in May

36% is the 5-year survival rate for people with a brain tumorBrain cancer is a dreaded diagnosis, and for good reason. It feels like a lightning bolt has face-planted you into a cement wall. It is no benign fear for anyone who receives a brain cancer diagnosis, least of which are children or a parent of young children. Hearing about brain cancer feeds most people’s paranoia, and reading about symptoms is almost guaranteed to bring them on! The next severe headache migraine may make you wonder if you have a brain tumor, especially if a child complains of headaches. Brain cancer is a journey with an unknown destination. There are different types of primary brain cancer, and survival rates vary significantly depending on the type of cancer.

Unthinkable Statistics

Image of brain showing pediatric tumors

According to the National Brain Tumor Society, brain tumors and cancers affect Americans from all walks of life. Still, the statistics in young people under the age of 19 are heart-wrenching, and the disease has a tremendous impact on the quality of life for the patient and their families.

  • Nearly 700,000 Americans are living with a primary brain tumor.
  • Approximately 70% of all brain tumors are benign, and 30% are malignant.
  • Over 18,000 people will die from a malignant brain tumor in 2021.
  • Brain tumors are the most common solid cancer in people ages 19 and younger in the United States.
  • Pediatric brain tumors are the leading cause of cancer-related death among children and adolescents under 19.
  • Approximately 31,000 adolescents and young adults are estimated to be living with a brain tumor in the United States.
Primary Brain Cancer Is Rare

Common brain cancer symptoms

primary malignant brain tumor is a rare type of cancer accounting for only about 1.4% of all new cancer cases in the U.S.  The most common brain tumors are known as secondary tumors, meaning they have metastasized or spread to the brain from other parts of the body such as the lungs, breasts, colon, or prostate.

According to the American Cancer Society, brain and spinal cord tumors are “masses of abnormal cells in the brain or spinal cord that have grown out of control.” That is a simplistic explanation of an incredibly diverse and devastating illness affecting a complex area of the body. Brain cancer can take a toll on a person’s speech, vision, hearing, memory, thoughts, and feelings. The essential parts of our life that make us unique and make us who we are as human beings come from the brain.

Benign or Malignant, What’s the Difference?

diagram comparing primary and metastatic tumors
Both types of tumors can have similar signs and symptoms. A benign tumor may not be cancerous but can be life-threatening by growing in the brain or spinal cord, unlike most benign tumors in other parts of the body. The tumors can press on nearby sections of the brain and cause serious injury. Malignant or cancerous brain and spinal cord tumors can increase and spread to other brain tissue, causing severe brain damage or death. Both types of tumors need treatment to prevent further brain or spinal cord injury.

Patients Struggle from Resource Obscurity and a Lack of Funding

As you sit at your computer or look down at your phone reading this blog post, your brain is actively working, engaging several normal brain functions such as phonemic awareness, visual and auditory processes, and comprehension. All this is taking place while you were not even “thinking” about it. May is Brain Cancer and Tumor Awareness Month. It is a good time to take a few moments to learn and support not only brain cancer research and treatment but those on a journey they never thought they would have to take.

Consider the suffering these debilitating cancer diagnoses inflict on patients and their families. Sadly, the underfunding and invisibility of organizations providing wrap-around support of cancer patients and their families is a genuine concern by nonprofits who are trying to fill that gap. Cancer is a three-legged stool: research, treatment, and journey! Here to Serve is a nonprofit that focuses on “the journey” of cancer patients. Unfortunately, organizations like Here to Serve are very few and languish in obscurity because they are underfunded. Here to Serve provides wrap-around services to cancer patient families providing home help (meals, housecleaning, pet care, etc.), funding, communication, and logistics. Nationwide awareness and funding of the journeys of brain cancer patients need the same intensity and focus as cancer research and treatment.

Great Minds Making Swift Advancements in Brain Cancer Research

Researchers looking at brain scansAs we advance through the 21st century, technology is changing every day. Fortunately, cancer research has benefited from rapid innovation. Research and development in brain cancer and tumor treatments have made tremendous leaps in the past decade. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic are developing state-of-the-art 3D printing to create models of complex brain tumors using high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) before surgery. Stanford University is fostering advanced treatment options like noninvasive CyberKnife radiation. But there is still more work to be done to prevent the unbearable tragedy of brain cancer, especially in children.

Being Aware is How We Care

Graphic showing our support for cancer fighters

Many organizations that research and treat brain cancers and tumors highlight their cause during Brain Cancer Awareness Month. Here to Serve often does not get the spotlight in these efforts, but we are vocal, nonetheless! The hard work and dedication to spread brain cancer awareness and highlight resources continue throughout the year. At Here to Serve, we understand the importance of supporting those who are fighting this unthinkable disease; those on a journey they never imagined they would have to take. Please reach out to us if you know a child diagnosed with brain cancer or any other type of pediatric cancer. We are aware of the needs of a family dealing with a cancer diagnosis. Our team can provide guidance and tangible, practical support. We assist in everyday tasks while giving hope in a time of uncertainty. Reach out for our help when you are ready. We will be Here to Serve!

By Chris Smith