Brain tumors present some of the most disturbing symptoms of human life: extreme headaches, dizziness, personality changes and balance problems.
They are also unpredictable, making most people vulnerable to a diagnosis.
Sunday marked a year after Senator John McCain's death of a glioblastoma, a particularly aggressive and deadly form of brain cancer.
But even benign brain tumors can be fatal if not treated in time, said Dr. Minesh Mehta, deputy director and chief of radiation oncology at the Miami Cancer Institute.
"The main reason that brain tumors are dangerous is the location, location, location. There is not a part of the brain that is unimportant or trivial or useless, "said Mehta TODAY's HUI.
"Any tumor anywhere in the brain has a significant potential to cause harm to the patient … especially in the context where the brain lives in a closed box – the skull. There is no room for expansion. "
With so many issues, it's important to understand the facts. Here are 10 common myths about brain tumors to know:
1. Mobile phones cause brain cancer
Cell phones use low levels of radio frequency energy. How does this affect people who spend a large part of the day with a phone in the ear? For now, it is unscientific to link health issues to mobile phone use, noted the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The most accurate studies have followed people for decades, but large-scale cell phone use has not been as long.
"What we can say without fear, is that more than a dozen studies in the literature – large-scale studies followed by patients for five to ten years – do not have to be done. showed no clear evidence of increased risk of developing brain tumors with cell phone use, "Mehta said.
"What about 20, 30 years of use? Obviously, we simply do not have the data for that. "
At present, the most constant risk to health associated with cell phone use is distracted driving and car accidents, noted the National Cancer Institute.
2. Consume aspartame causes brain tumors
The artificial sweetener is used in sodas, chewing gum and other foods since the 1980s.
As part of the research process, rodents were administered to rodents at very high doses – far more than any human would consume – and some animals developed some tumors, explained Mehta, which provoked rumors and worries.
"But there is no evidence that they actually developed brain tumors," he said. "In the man, there is absolutely no evidence that occurs."
Aspartame is "one of the most studied substances in human nutrition," with more than 100 studies supporting its safety, the US Food and Drug Administration noted.
3. Doctors know why brain tumors develop
Most of the time, the cause is a mystery, according to the American Brain Tumor Association. The vast majority of glioblastomas occur at random, for example.
Dr. Manish Sharma, a neurosurgeon at the Mayo Clinic's health care system in Mankato, Minnesota, recently treated a 24-year-old woman who developed a benign brain tumor about the size of a golf ball.
Some brain tumors are linked to genetic disorders, including neurofibromatosis, tuberous sclerosis and Li-Fraumeni syndrome.
Unnecessary exposure to radiation, including excessive dental x-rays, can also increase the risk of developing tumors, said Mehta. "You have to weigh the risk against the benefits," he said. "Sometimes the benefit of radiography of your teeth goes far beyond anything else."
4. Brain cancer is rare and usually occurs in the adult
According to the American Brain Tumor Association, brain tumors affect all ages, sexes, and ethnicities. Today, more than 700,000 Americans are suffering from a brain tumor. Brain tumors are the second most common cancer in children aged 14 and under.
5. The ketogenic diet can cure glioblastoma
No diet can cure glioblastoma, said Dr. Shiao-Pei Weathers, brain tumor specialist at the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas.
"The idea that you can 'starve' glioblastoma through diet is a myth," she writes in response to online claims that the diet with very low carbohydrate and fat may have benefits for her. the patients. "Patients with glioblastoma need nutrients – including carbohydrates – to keep their bodies strong through treatment."
Overall, studies show that animals fed a "massively calorie-restricted diet" age more slowly and develop fewer tumors in their bodies, but there is no evidence that is true in humans, noted Mehta. People should reduce their daily calorie consumption by more than 50% in their lifetime to mimic this drastic diet, which would be almost impossible to achieve, he added.
6. Superfoods can prevent brain cancer
Foods rich in antioxidants, including blueberries, beans and nuts, have been touted as promoting good health by helping to combat the damage of free radicals.
"But there is no evidence that there is a known superfood that actually protects individuals from developing tumors," said Mehta.
7. Cut the sugar from the diet can prevent brain tumors
Avoiding sugar is good for general health, but it's not going to prevent a tumor from developing, said Mehta. Tumors are very effective in getting their nutritional needs from the host – the human.
8. Benign brain tumors are not serious
Benign tumors in other parts of the body do not pose as much risk, but this is not the case when they develop in the brain.
"Because of their growth, brain compression and brain damage, they have the potential to become very serious," said Mehta. They just take longer to become dangerous as they grow more slowly.
9. Once removed, a brain tumor no longer grows
Unfortunately, it's an "absolute myth," said Mehta.
During a brain operation, it is often impossible for doctors to know where the tumor ends and where the normal brain begins. The microscopic cells of the mass can infiltrate the surrounding tissues and grow back with time. This is why many patients undergo radiation or chemotherapy once their brain tumors are removed.
10. There is no hope for patients with brain tumors
There are more than 120 different types of primary brain tumors and, with the exception of glioblastoma, doctors have "dramatically improved outcomes for many of these patients," said Mehta.
Advances in surgical techniques, anesthesia, radiotherapy and targeted drugs are making surgery safer, survival longer and quality of life better for many brain tumor patients.