Thursday, April 18, 2013

Pineal Tumor

The following is a guest post:

Pineal tumors are associated with the pineal gland, which is located near mid-brain. The pineal gland is part of the body’s endocrine system and produces a hormone called melatonin, which affects your awake and sleep patterns and how the body adjusts to changes in seasonal climate. The endocrine system consists of organs, which help, in regulation of various functions such as metabolism, growth, and development. Pineal tumors disrupt the production of the hormones this gland produces with the expected results. Sleep patterns are disturbed which can then multiply into other physical problems beyond what the tumor itself causes. The location of this gland tucked deeply between the hemispheres of the brain make it a sensitive and delicate area to reach and remove tumors. These tumors are not common in adults (less than 1% of all pineal tumors) and much more prevalent in children just entering their teen years making this problem more of a childhood disease.

The malignancy rate of these tumors is high approaching the 80% level. They are not easy to detect or diagnose because they start out very small before they experience any explosive growth. The symptoms that present at first are normally related to the effects the tumors have on surrounding areas. The increased cranial pressures can cause headaches, nausea, and fatigue. The possible restriction of cerebrospinal fluid could present and even problems with vision from pressure on the optic nerves and memory problems could reveal the existence of a pineal tumor. The bottom line is that pineal tumors and their causes are not well understood. That is what makes the diagnosis difficult. There is no evidence suggesting they are genetically induced and the trigger events that produce the tumors are undiscovered due mostly to lack of research into the problem. The location of the pineal gland contributes greatly to limiting the amount of research that can be done.

There is one unique endocrinologic disturbance associated with pineal tumors and that is called precocious puberty where the hypothalamus is affected which in turn causes and overstimulation of the pituitary leading to the puberty condition. The related symptomatic issues are what make tracing it all back to pineal gland problem so difficult. The diagnostic tools are standard using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computer topography but it is the combination of two forms of magnetic resonance imaging that reveals the condition more often than not. MRI along with magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) to observe blood flow and blood vessel wall conditions lead to a successful diagnosis if a pineal tumor is suspected.

Standard cancer treatments are employed to reduce and dissolve the tumors when needed. Normally, a “wait and see” approach is used due to the sensitive and difficult location of the gland. The damage to surrounding tissues could be more devastating than the problems the tumor itself is causing. However, when necessary, radiological and chemotherapy are treatment options to be considered. Surgery is the last resort with new microsurgical techniques being developed using tiny endoscopes vice the more traditional open brain or stereotactic biopsy procedures. The bottom line is that it is a curable form of cancer if the tumor is malignant.

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