A few days ago, I was pleased to have the day wrapped up at about 9pm. My older children were in bed, and I had placed my toddler in his play pen, right next to my bed. He was fast asleep and I was excited to have a few minutes to read before falling asleep. Situated in between the play pen and my bed, I had my nightstand where I would typical connect my cellphone to charge (and close enough to hear my alarm go off at 5:30am the next morning).
On that particular day, I connected my cellphone to charge and then started walking off to prepare for bed. My toddler stirred, his precious head really close to the cellphone, and I stopped dead in my tracks. I went back, disconnected the cellphone, and moved it and it’s charger to the adjacent bathroom, about 10 feet away.
It is May and Brain Cancer Awareness Month. Perhaps you, like many others wonder – do cellphones cause brain cancer? What else is there to know about brain cancer?
Well, read on…….
Experts are undecided. Have a look here, to see a number of studies I found on a quick search on pubmed.gov. Overall, data are conflicting. Some studies suggest there may be a link between cellphone use and brain cancers, while others do not find such an association. Note that many of the studies that demonstrated a possible link are much older and used analog phones. Digital phones used nowadays emit much less power than those analog phones used in years past. Here is an excellent summary of data from the NCI. My personal opinion each person should act based on their comfort level. Overall though, caution is never a bad thing. We need ongoing research to find out if young children particularly, may be more vulnerable. You may want to review this press release from the WHO. Aside from the cancer factor, children and adults alike, are getting rather attached to cellphones and there are other reasons why this habit should be addressed. As a working parent who uses a smartphone a great deal, I constantly think about my children and their risk of attachment to such devices. Dr. Sharon McLaughlin wrote a fantastic blog post about this.
There are many different types of brain cancer. Terminology depends on the main cells from which the cancer formed. Some examples include meningiomas and astrocytomas. There are also cases where cancer from other parts of the body metastasize to the brain. In yet another category, lymphoma (a cancer arising from lymph cells) can also arise in the brain (aka primary CNS lymphoma). I will not be focusing on the last two categories in this post.
In most cases, the cause is unknown. There are some recognized risk factors like inherited neurofibromatosis and radiation though.
Symptoms can vary. Some examples include headache, seizures, weakness or paralysis of a particular side of the body, and change in personality.
Treatment also varies. Some tumors can be surgically cut out and may or may not need radiation afterwards. Some tumors may be located in parts of the brain where surgical removal may not be feasible (due to risk of surgery damaging parts of the brain crucial for survival). The most aggressive type of brain cancer is called glioblastoma multiforme. Such tumors usually need some combination of chemotherapy and radiation, after surgical resection if feasible/possible. Unfortunately, even with optimal treatment, most people do not survive more than 1-1.5 years on average. Senator Ted Kennedy most likely had this form of brain cancer.
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