Cancer: Have you noticed this happen to your speech? One common sign of a brain tumour

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A brain tumour is a growth of cells in the brain that multiplies in an abnormal, uncontrollable way. There are two main types of brain tumour: non-cancerous (benign) brain tumours and cancerous (malignant) brain tumours. Non-cancerous brain tumours grow slowly and are less likely to return after treatment. Cancerous brain tumours either start in the brain or spread into the brain from elsewhere; they’re more likely to grow back after treatment.

According to Cancer Research UK, common types of brain tumours in adults start in the main part of the brain called the cerebrum.

The symptoms vary depending on the exact part of the brain, but some people may experience speech difficulties. It will depend on whether the part of the brain involved in communication is affected.

The Brain Tumour Charity said: “The frontal lobe is involved in language production and the temporal lobe is involved in understanding language.

“As a result, if your tumour is in one of these lobes, pressure from the tumour itself, swelling around it or treatment directed at that area may have an effect on your communication skills.

Another factor is the side of the brain on which the tumour is located.

The charity explained: “The brain is also divided into two hemispheres – left and right. If your tumour is located in the left hemisphere, you are more likely to experience language and speech difficulties, as this is where the language areas are generally found. (It is important to note that for some people, the language areas are found in the right hemisphere.)”

“These effects may be temporary and reduce with recover, but some effects may be more permanent if that area is removed or damaged,” it added.

People with brain tumours may experience a range of symptoms, which will vary in their severity, common communication difficulties include:

  • Language impairment (also known as ‘dysphasia’)
  • Speech difficulties
  • Cognitive communication difficulties; problems with cognitive functions, such as memory, attention, social cognition, can lead to communication difficulties due to forgetting words, losing the thread of a conversation, or not knowing when to talk and when to listen during a conversation

Dysphasia is the most common communication difficulty experienced by people with brain tumours, explained the charity: “Dysphasia is a condition caused by damage to the parts of the brain that are responsible for understanding and producing language. It also affects speaking and writing in the same way.

“This means you may have difficulty understanding words you hear or read, as well as in producing words (spoken or written).”

Dysphasia can manifest itself in the following ways:

  • Difficulty speaking and may only be able to produce a small number of words in halting sentences, for example “want … tea … sugar”
  • Getting words muddled up e.g. confuse “yes” and “no”
  • Being able to describe an object, but not name it
  • Only being able to say a few words, which may be linked to emotions and could be swear words
  • People with dysphasia may also have difficulties understanding language or producing meaningful language, explained the health body, which could involve:
  • Not understanding what others are saying, particularly long sentences
  • Having difficulty understanding if there is background noise or several people speaking at once
  • Being able to read headlines, but not the main body of the text
  • Being able to write, but not read back what you have written

Dysphasia can be emotionally upsetting for people living with it, noted the charity. People may feel emotionally ‘cut off’ and this can put a strain on relationships. It is not uncommon for people to feel isolated and experience depression.

According to the NHS, other symptoms of a brain tumour include:

  • Severe, persistent headaches
  • Seizures (fits)
  • Persistent nausea, vomiting and drowsiness
  • Mental or behavioural changes, such as memory problems or changes in personality
  • Progressive weakness or paralysis on one side of the body
  • Vision problems

Symptoms may not show up initially and may only develop gradually. Treating brain tumours will depend largely on the type of tumour, where it is the brain, how big it is and how far it’s spread, noted the health body.

There are a number of treatment procedures available, these include:

  • Steroids
  • Surgery
  • Radiotherapy
  • Chemotherapy

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