The Link Between Brain Tumors and Diabetes

Kozzi-group-of-the-students-working-at-the-laboratory-with-microscope-884-X-588Brain tumors are defined as abnormal growths in the tissue of the brain, and can begin in the brain itself or in the areas surrounding the brain. Physicians and scientists can classify brain tumors either as non-cancerous, also known as benign; or malignant, depending upon the progression of the abnormal growth in the tissue. Usually if a brain tumor is benign, there are no cancerous cells present and once removed, the tumor does not recur. In malignant cases, there are cancer cells present and they tend to grow at a rapid rate. Sometimes, malignant brain tumors can spread to other areas of the body from the brain, and they also continue to grow in size.

Brain tumors can be caused by many medical conditions such as tuberous sclerosis, which are tumor-like nodules or lesions on the brain; neurofibromatosis, a type of genetic disorder of the nervous system that affects the growth of tissue essential for neural processes; and tuberculosis. Brain tumors that progress to other areas within the body are noted as being metastatic, and they can cause other problems to essential brain functioning. There is a reason to believe that some kinds of brain tumors, such as pituitary tumors, can lead to elevated blood glucose levels.

Pituitary tumors can lead to diabetes if the tumor secretes hormones, notes New York University’s Langorne Medical Center. One hormone known as ACTH, or adrenocorticotropin hormone, causes the production of hormones in the adrenal cortex, and an overproduction of this hormone is what begins the development of diabetes in the body. This is the link, therefore, between diabetes and brain tumors.

Diabetes caused by a pituitary tumor can lead to many issues and complications. Extreme levels of sugar in the bloodstream can cause the kidneys to work excessively, as the kidneys will usually add extra liquid to urine to try and rid the body of the overwhelming amount of sugar. Diabetics that have brain tumors will often have intense periods of thirst and lack of body fluids in addition to frequent urination. Vision changes can also result due to the diabetes caused particularly by a pituitary tumor. Pituitary tumors that result in an individual developing diabetes can also cause swelling of the face, weight gain and increased amounts of fat around the shoulders. A weakened immune system may also accompany an individual who has both a brain tumor and diabetes.

Diabetes is usually diagnosed through measuring blood sugar levels. There are two ways to discover if an individual who has a brain tumor has developed diabetes: through an MRI scan and through a blood test. The levels of ACTH are measured in the blood test, and thus the physician knows whether the individual has developed diabetes. Treatment is probable for individuals who have pituitary tumors. This is usually done by a transsphenoidal adenomectomy, which is a type of procedure that involves a doctor making a slit in the nostril or bridge of the nose, to access and remove the tumor. Other forms of treatment include radiation and the use of drugs such as mitotane, which is a class of medication that slows and stunts the growth of tumors.

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