Treatment of tumours requires intensive and painstaking investigation and follow-up

Deutsche Hirntumorhilfe, the German Brain Tumour Association, has earmarked June 8 to spread awareness about brain tumours, which according to it, is a little-known disease that costs one's life even before it is diagnosed.

When K.N. Shankar was asked to read the Snellen eye chart at Rajan Eye Hospital in T. Nagar, sometimes he would ignore the optometrist's request. His wife said he had retired voluntarily from an active job and was very quiet of late. Was he depressed, wilful, or malingering? An ophthalmologist who examined him earlier had termed him ‘malingerer'. Mr. Shankar's bewildered wife thought it was depression. The puzzled doctors referred him to senior consultant Mohan Rajan.

“I let him walk up and down the corridor outside my office for two hours and then it struck me that a tumour could be pressing down the optic nerves. A CT scan confirmed my suspicion,” Dr. Mohan said. Within a week, the tumour was removed and after a course of radiation therapy, Mr. Shankar became his jovial self and could see clearly. “He has started singing, a hobby for which he gave up his job. He laughs and talks like he used to before,” his wife said.

In case of malignant tumours, there are fewer chances of survival. It requires intensive and painstaking investigation and follow-up. At Rajan Eye Hospital, at least 70 patients have been treated for benign brain tumours in the past decade. “Diagnosing the tumour is difficult and sometimes a suspicion could trigger further tests. It is a technique I have learnt from my father,” said Dr. Mohan, managing director of the hospital.

Gautam Chand, 34, was saved from an unwanted cataract surgery thanks to his uncle Dilip Jain, who suggested that he seek a second opinion. His condition was due to a tumour in the pituitary gland area, which was weakening his optic nerves. “After the removal of tumour and a few weeks radiation therapy which ended in March, I can see better,” Mr. Gautam said.

Dr. Mohan who treated these patients said none of them came with the usual symptoms of brain tumour such as double vision, headache or vomiting. But all of them had a unifying condition: the tumour pressed on the optic nerve, slowly but steadily affecting sight.

“I conducted [visual] field acuity tests to check if their peripheral vision was lost. It requires experience to suspect a brain tumour,” said Dr. Mohan, who has since the 1990s, treated around 70 persons with benign brain tumours.

The challenge is to remove the tumour completely. And for this, the patient has to undergo radiation. In some cases, it could be for several months. “It is important to diagnose it early before sight is lost. Some patients have lost sight because they were referred late,” he said.

Keywords: brain tumour

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R. SujathaJune 28, 2012

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