Wednesday, December 10, 2014

No Scar Brain Surgery (through your nose)

Yes, you read that right.  The Cleveland Clinic has made a video about its performing brain tumor which doesn’t leave a scar:
I’ve always thought of the brain tumor surgery scar as insult to injury: as you’re recovering from brain surgery, you’ve got to walk around with this nasty scar that shouts “This guy’s brain damaged!”.

I had brain surgery and, as you can see, have a big honking scar.

But the Dr. Raj Sindwani of the Cleveland Clinic was able to perform surgery on Robert Matthews’ meningioma brain tumor by sticking instruments up through his nose (now that just sounds painful) without leaving the big honking scar that I got. Since many meningioma victims are women, that whole scar thing is especially insulting, if not demeaning, to them.

You can read a very short blurb about it here:

Monday, December 1, 2014

What Causes Brain Tumors?

I understand that sometimes the best solution to a health problem is to avoid getting it in the first place. For example, it seems like if you eat right and exercise, you reduce your chances of getting a heart attack or diabetes or similarly nasty diseases.

So, I visited several brain tumor sites and searched for the answers to this question: “What causes brain tumors?”

The ABTA website writes about this as “Risk Factors” -  At the top of the list of ABTA cited risk factors is “exposure to ionizing radiation.”

Since I had no idea what “ionizing radiation” is, I googled it and got this definition from the World Health Organization: “Energy emitted from a source is generally referred to as radiation. Examples include heat or light from the sun, microwaves from an oven, X rays from an X-ray tube, and gamma rays from radioactive elements.” See

This, of course, what got me all hot and bothered about having dental x-rays and you can read my blog posting/rant about that possible correlation with meningioma here - - because if you’ve had as many bitewing x-rays as I’ve had, your brain is probably hot and bothered, too.

Next, I tried the National Brain Tumor Society’s website:  And while I really like the NBTS, I didn’t see anything about how to avoid getting a brain tumor or reducing the risk.

So then I zipped over to the “Cancer Treatment Centers of America” website - - and learned that “The cause of brain cancer is still largely unknown. Although there are some genetic conditions and environmental factors which may contribute to the development of brain cancer, the risk factors are much less defined for brain cancer than for other cancers in the body.”

This, to me, seems awfully awful. We have lots of brain tumors a year as more that 688,000+ people are grappling with brain tumors in the U.S., let alone all the victims in the rest of the world.

Golly, with that many cases to analyze, interrogate or otherwise manipulate, I thought we’d have a better answer to this seemingly fundamental question.

If you know the answer, or have some clues, please email me. Or, better yet, please tell a high-powered researcher who will actually make use of the information.


PS – This all reminds me of Clifton Leaf’s seminal book entitled “The Truth in Small Doses: Why We’re Losing the War on Cancer – and How to Win It.” You can buy it for $12.00 (U.S.) on Amazon:

Copyright: <a href=''>eraxion / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Monday, November 24, 2014

Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States

When I talk to victims and caregivers and friends and family members of brain tumor victims I get a lot of questions, questions like:
  • What are my chances? (Of survival)
  • How many people get this!? This is usually asked loudly or poignantly or despairingly so I added an exclamation point.)
  • Why me? (What did I do wrong?)
Horribly and embarrassingly, I usually have no answers or, at best, pretty bad answers.

Worse yet, as a society/national/people don’t seem to have many answers to these pointed questions begging to be answered.

But today I did stumble across the “Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States“ which provides some answers to those who live in the US and worldwide:

The answers it provides tend to be the cold, heartless facts of brain tumors, how many cases per year, which age groups, males versus females, etc.

Here’s some numbers that jumped out at me and hit me hard right between the eyes: “An estimated 68,470 new cases of primary malignant and non-malignant brain and CNS tumors are expected to be diagnosed in the United States in 2015. This includes an estimated 23,180 primary malignant and 45,300 non-malignant that are expected to be diagnosed in the US in 2015.”

I found that depressing. 68,470 is the population of a good-sized city. The idea of an entire city of brain tumor victims makes me cringe.

Perhaps most depressing are the bleak five-year survival rates which are tiered by age. For example, the five-year relative survival rates following diagnosis of a primary malignant brain and CNS tumor for somebody 55 to 74 years old is 17.7%. 17.7%? 17.7%!

Since my wife and I have a very, very good college friend who fits that demographic, right now I’m very, very sad. L

If you’re interested go to the link and have a look. Personally I found a lot of data and not hardly any answers.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Walnuts Every Day (might) Keep Alzheimer’s Away

Go grab a walnut from your kitchen shelf and take a quick look at it. Looks surprisingly similar to a brain, doesn’t it?

Well it turns out that looks might not be deceiving as researchers at the New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities (phew, that’s a long name) said that experiments with Alzheimer’s-susceptible mice found that subjects consuming walnuts showed significant improvements in learning skills and memory compared to mice without walnuts in their diets.

I learned this from an article by Fredrick Kunkle in The Washington Post:
Kunkle reports that “the study also found improvements in motor skills and reduction in anxiety.” He also noted that the equivalent walnut consumption for humans would be about “1 to 1.5 ounces of walnuts a day.” To my ears, “1 to 1.4 ounces” doesn’t sound like some huge challenge. It sounds like a small handful on my oatmeal every morning.

Want to believe but need more proof? 
Or are you just a curious engineer/scientist-type who needs more info? 

In any of those cases, here’s a link to the abstract in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease:  
Copyright: <a href=''>vasabii / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
Copyright: <a href=''>timolina / 123RF Stock Photo</a>