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Causes of brain tumours unknown

2022-06-09  Paheja Siririka

Causes of brain tumours unknown

The particulars and exact causes of brain tumours are not known but issues around exposure to high radiation and genetic conditions have been established as risk factors that possibly cause the growth of these swellings.

This was shared by neurosurgeon Dr Michael Aaron Jario in an exclusive interview with Vital Signs this week. Jario renders services to the private and public health sectors.

“In most cases, we don’t know the cause or the have been a certain association of the growth of tumours, however, if individuals have been exposed to high doses of radiation, for instance, that could be a risk factor. We have also found that certain genetic conditions, fortunately, can predispose you to develop tumours, but in many cases, we don’t know why they occur,” Jario told Vital Signs.

He added that a brain tumour is where you have got abnormal cells in your brain that begins to divide and act abnormally and they form a mass, an irritation that starts to disturb the function of the brain.

“When we talk of brain tumours, we talk of the benign tumours which are the non-cancerous ones and then we talk of the malignant ones which are cancerous. You also find tumours in other parts of the body such as lung, and breast cancer and in those cells can spread to the brain and cause a secondary tumour,” he stated.

Jario added: “We also find that the older you get, the higher your likelihood is of developing a brain tumour. It should also be known that brain tumours appear to be more common in males than females-for reasons that we do not fully understand at this point. There is very little that one can do to prevent a tumour.”

According to Tech Namibia School of Medicine, the field of Neuro-Oncology is developing swiftly, with capable ongoing research that has the latent to influence clinical management in the short- to medium-term future. 

Many significant advances have been reported recently, and other encouraging research will substantially affect the field in the coming years, especially in the areas of high-grade gliomas and brain metastases.

As a neurosurgeon, Jario mostly treats trauma-related conditions, adding that tumours are there but not common. 

“The global figure estimate that for every 100 000 there are three people who are diagnosed with a brain tumour, so if we are to extrapolate those figures in Namibia, we are looking at 94 people per year,” he said.

Out of the 94 people, there is a need to further determine which ones are cancerous and which ones are not because that determines survival.

Shared Jario: “Surgery is the first step. I work in a team. After the surgery is done successfully, we send the sample to another specialist who is a pathologist to look under the microscope and give that tumour a name and based on we can determine whether the patient needs chemotherapy, radiation, or any further treatment.”

He added that there are instances where tumours sit in a very sensitive area of the brain and one of those sensitive areas is called the brain stem, which controls your breathing, and the beating of your heart.

“There are tumours located in that area, that at times it’s not always possible to safely remove the tumour without causing significant harm to the patient. It is important to have these discussions with a patient and you have to be honest, you need to say that this is an inoperable tumour,” he stated.

Due to the sometimes long operating hours, Jario said it is important to care for patients and love the work you do as a surgeon. “You have to be precise because the stakes are high and you don’t want to paralyse a patient,” said the 38-year-old medical practitioner.

At the end of the day, the success stories make the job worthwhile. A patient of his, a young lady, discovered on a Friday afternoon that she has got a massive tumour in her brain. “We operated it as an emergency over a weekend here at Lady Pohamba Private Hospital and the operation went well, I was able to remove the entire tumour. She had no issues and was discharged a few days later,” recalled Jario.

A letter of appreciation was written by the patient’s sibling Kelly Morland how Jario and the team saved her sister Gail. “After a long day in theatre, Dr Jario had a look at my sister’s magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and explained to her that she had a large meningioma. The tumour was removed and she was awake after the surgery,” narrated Morland.

Gail, on the 6 April 2022 sought medical help after experiencing a terrible headache for months which led to the development of blurred vision. She was operated on 8 April 2022.

Jario stressed the importance of Namibians doing regular checks up to avoid diseases developing into severe and untreatable stages.


2022-06-09  Paheja Siririka

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