‘I was being treated for cancer then found out I’d got a brain tumour’

The development of brain tumours can be triggered by both genetics and environmental factors. Sometimes, they grow so slowly that they fail to produce symptoms. Once a tumour becomes large enough to interfere with healthy tissues, however, symptoms are likely to emerge.

Karen Bucknall discovered she had a brain tumour while receiving treatment for her bowel cancer in 2021.

The 52-year-old, from Cheltenham, said she began experiencing severe headaches while undergoing treatment for a stage III tumour.

Doctors took the headaches to be a side effect of the chemotherapy, but no less than a year later, a brain tumour was found.

Karen said: “I was getting really bad headaches and I kept getting told it was due to the chemotherapy.

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“I continued to tell them how the headaches were horrible, my hearing was going, my balance and mobility weren’t great – I was having noise overloads.”

Kate was finally diagnosed with a non-cancerous brain tumour – known as an acoustic neuroma – in December 2021.

“It felt like a huge relief because I knew there was something wrong with me,” she said.

“It felt like the missing piece of the puzzle. The only way I look at my condition logically is that you are not defined by cancer.”

Though Karen’s tumour is currently stable, she is undergoing annual MRI scans to monitor its size.

What are common brain tumour symptoms?

All brain tumours generally produce similar symptoms, regardless of whether they’re cancerous or not.

One key difference in characteristics is that cancerous tumours tend to spread to other parts of the brain more rapidly.

The Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center explains that brain tumours may cause seizures or neurologic problems, such as paralysis and speed difficulties.

Though a benign brain tumour is less aggressive than a cancerous one, it is still potentially dangerous.

This is because there is a limited amount of space in the brain, so the skull cannot accommodate any growths on the organ.

Benign tumours, therefore, require treatment with radiation and surgery or a
combination of the two.

Though they may grow in size, they don’t usually spread.

Doctor David Jenkinson, Chief Scientific Officer at the Brain Tumour Charity, said: “Being aware of the signs and symptoms of a brain tumour is essential to ensure that those with concerning symptoms feel supported to get the help they need by speaking to their doctors about any health concerns.

“We understand from time to time that everyone experiences one of several […] symptoms.

“However, if they are in combination, persistent or you are concerned about your health, we urge you to seek advice from a doctor.”

Aside from getting headaches, patients often report feeling persistently sick or suffering other mental and behavioural changes as well.

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