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Benign Brain Tumor Affects Sheryl Crow, Many Others

Brain tumor

Numerous news sources have announced that 50-year-old singer Sheryl Crow has a benign brain tumor. While the words "brain" and "tumor" evoke lots of negative thoughts, benign brain tumors affect many people and are often, but not always, relatively harmless.

How harmless is a benign brain tumor?

Benign brain tumors are slow-growing tumors that doctors can remove surgically or destroy if it is in an accessible location, according to the National Brain Tumor Society. When benign brain tumors are removed, they seldom grow back.

A benign brain tumor does not contain cancer cells. However, in some cases, benign brain tumors become malignant. A malignant (cancerous) brain tumor grows rapidly and invades and destroys normal brain tissue.

Benign brain tumors can be as harmful as a malignant brain tumor, depending on where they are located in the brain. A benign tumor that presses on sensitive regions of the brain or that appears on the brain stem, for example, may cause serious health problems and be life threatening.

Most benign brain tumors are discovered when individuals have a CT (computerized tomography) scan or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan. Sheryl Crow reported that she had an MRI after she became worried about difficulties with her memory. That's when doctors found the tumor.

In addition to memory problems, other signs and symptoms of a benign brain tumor may include those in the following list. However, you will notice that these symptoms can be associated with many health problems, so anyone who is experiencing these problems should consult their healthcare provider.

  • Vision problems
  • Hearing problems
  • Balance problems
  • Seizures or jerking muscles
  • Changes in your sense of smell
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Numbness in the arms, hands, legs, and/or feet
  • Partial or complete paralysis of the face
  • Difficulties with concentration, speech, and memory

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Experts don't know why benign brain tumors develop, but some of the possible risk factors include family history, exposure to chemicals (e.g., formaldehyde, vinyl chloride), and radiation exposure.

Sheryl Crow has been diagnosed with a type of benign brain tumor called a meningioma, which develops from the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. There are more than 120 different types of brain tumors, and more than 20% of them are meningiomas.

Another type of benign brain tumor is schwannoma (also called acoustic neuroma), which is a tumor that occurs in the 8th cranial nerve. It accounts for about 9% of all brain tumors. Pituitary adenomas (about 8%), hemangioblastomas (about 2%), and craniopharyngioma (1-3% of brain tumors) are other types.

Nearly all benign brain tumors are treatable, and treatment depends on the patient's age, where the tumor is located, how big the tumor is, and the patient's overall health. In May 2011, 75-year-old actress Mary Tyler Moore underwent successful surgery to remove a benign brain tumor (meningioma).

In most cases, the tumor is removed and/or radiation therapy is prescribed. Corticosteroids can be used to reduce swelling of the brain and help facilitate the healing process.

Crow, who is also a breast cancer survivor, is currently on a nationwide tour. She stated in a CBS report that the benign brain tumor "gives me a fit," but that "it's benign, so I don't have to worry about it."

CBS News report
National Brain Tumor Society

Image: Wikimedia Commons