During International Brain Tumour Awareness Week, from October 20-27, Cabrini is recognising people with brain tumours and raising awareness of this condition.
Brain tumours are varied and can impact many different functions of the body but treatment can help many patients to continue to lead meaningful lives.
Cabrini Neurosurgeon Professor Gavin Davis said in most cases, there were no underlying risk factors that contributed to a person being diagnosed with a brain tumour.
“There are no known risk factors for brain tumours,” he said.
“It can happen to any person, at any age, from any socioeconomic background.”
“People often ask: “why did I get this?”, unfortunately there is no known cause.”
Professor Davis said while brain tumours made up only a small percentage of cancer generally, the impacts were more significant.
“There are some benign tumours that can be cured, but for the most part our treatment plan is about prolonging and improving the quality of life,” he said.
He said brain tumours caused varied symptoms.
“There is the oncological side but there is also the neurological side, which is responsible for lost function and seizures. Depending on what part of the brain the tumour is in, it can cause vision problems, personality changes, movement disorders and many other issues.
“People with brain tumours may look like anyone else from the outside but there may be many psychological, cognitive or neurological issues going on under the surface.”
When 49-year-old Cabrini patient Matthew Mallett was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2007, it was a shock.
“I had been passing out at the gym and having headaches,” Mr Mallett said.
“Originally, I was checked out for heart problems but following a CT scan, I was told I had a golf-ball sized tumour in my head.”
“It was at that point that I really dealt with my mortality.”
Mr Mallett said having private health insurance eased some of the financial burden associated with his treatment.
“You never know what’s in store but when something happens to you, these things are really important. These are the things people really need to consider.”
Mr Mallett said his experience at Cabrini had been reassuring.
“It didn’t matter whether it was a cleaner, a nurse or a surgeon, everyone I dealt with at the hospital was amazing,” he said.
Mr Mallett said International Brain Tumour Awareness Week was about raising awareness and helping people understand the needs of people with brain tumours and the care that went with it.
“Brain cancer affects so many aspects of your life,” he said.
“I’m pretty lucky, I have a low-grade tumour but it affects people in different ways. Some people have clarity of mind and others don’t.”
He said patience was key when dealing with someone who had brain cancer.
“If you come across someone who has brain cancer, just be patient. When you’ve had brain cancer, your mind isn’t up to the same pace it used to be.”
“The most important thing is to treat people with brain cancer with dignity and respect, as you would treat anyone else.”
Professor Davis said if symptoms presented it was important to seek help straight away.
“Symptoms such as headaches, new onset muscle weakness, vision problems, personality changes or memory loss are all signs there could be something wrong. It is important to remember though that these symptoms are associated with a variety of other disorders and the majority of people with these symptoms will not have a brain tumour.”
Professor Davis said brain tumours could be easily diagnosed by a GP, provided they took a detailed history from the patient, and organised the appropriate scans.
“If you are worried, don’t put off seeking medical treatment, as early detection is always better. See your GP as the first line of management. It is also important to understand that there is no single, simple treatment for brain tumours and it is a process that involves many health professionals.
“Treatment can prolong life for many years, even decades.
“At Cabrini, we have a multidisciplinary approach to care, where you have access to all the services you need, under one roof.”