Not All Brain Tumors Are Cancerous
- After 12 years in the NFL, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford finally played in his first Super Bowl on Sunday night, and led his team to victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, 23-20.
- Wife Kelly Stafford congratulated her husband on the field after his big win, however, nearly three years ago the roles were reversed; Matthew and the Stafford kids were celebrating alongside Kelly after she woke up from surgery to remove a brain tumor.
- Most people think of “cancer” when they hear the word “tumor.” But most brain tumors are not actually cancerous, such as in Kelly’s case. She had an acoustic neuroma brain tumor, and we outline the symptoms to be aware of below.
With about 30 seconds left on the clock in the 4th quarter, the Rams took possession of the ball and ran the clock to zero; before time even ran out, teammates and their loved ones were storming the field to celebrate the Rams’ first Super Bowl victory since 2000.Read More
— Hank Winchester (@hankwinchester) February 14, 2022
However, nearly three years ago the roles were reversed; Matthew and the Stafford kids were celebrating alongside Kelly after she woke up from surgery to remove a brain tumor.
Kelly Stafford’s Non-Cancerous Brain Tumor
It all began in January 2019 when Kelly Stafford began experiencing flashes of vertigo — the sensation that you, or the environment around you, is moving or spinning, causing you to feel dizziness.
“The room just kind of started spinning on me,” Kelly told NBC Detroit affiliate WDIV-TV after her surgery in 2019. “I was holding our newborn at that point, and I kind of just, like, almost threw her to Matthew because I felt myself going down.”
“I thought it was time to … at least try to get her looked at and see if it is vertigo,” her husband Matthew Stafford said.
Once she was at the doctor, Kelly had an MRI scan that confirmed the family’s fear: Kelly had a brain tumor. The good news, however, was that her tumor was benign, meaning not cancerous.
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Naturally, a lot of people think of “cancer” when they hear the word “tumor.” However, most brain tumors are not actually cancerous. Less than one-third (about 32%) of brain tumors are considered malignant (cancerous).
If a tumor is made up of normal-looking cells, then the tumor is benign. But these tumors may still require treatment, such as surgery. Because of this, they are often referred to as “non-malignant,” since the word benign can be misleading.
The most common type of non-malignant brain tumors are meningiomas, however, there are 120 different types of brain and central nervous system tumors, according to the American Brain Tumor Association. One of those types is acoustic neuroma, which is what Kelly Stafford had.
An acoustic neuroma brain tumor is a benign tumor that grows on the nerve that runs from your inner ear to your brain. They are rather slow-growing and can exist for years before symptoms begin to present themselves.
The symptoms of this brain tumor can include:
- Balance problems, such as vertigo (What Kelly Stafford experienced)
- Facial numbness
- Hearing loss
- Ringing in one ear
The symptoms of a brain tumor, or even brain cancer if the tumor is malignant, can frequently and easily change, Dr. Suriya Jeyapalan, director of medical neuro-oncology at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, Mass., previously told SurvivorNet.
“But for — I think this is the take home message for I think a lot of patients: Brain cancer is actually really rare,” Dr. Jeyapalan said. “Lung cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, are much more common.”
“Everybody’s always scared about getting their brain tumor and, you know, ‘Oh, should I be using my cell phone or what not,’ and I tell them, ‘No, you should be much more scared about the fact that you’re, you know, you’re hypertensive, you’re diabetic, you have high cholesterol, you’re overweight, you’re not exercising enough,’” she added.
It was shortly after Kelly Stafford’s diagnosis, on April 17, 2019, that doctors decided to operate. The tumor was successfully removed during a 12-hour surgery.
And Matthew Stafford was by her side the whole time, just as Kelly was by her husband’s side as he led his team to a Super Bowl victory Sunday night.
Matthew Stafford’s Support: When the One You Love is Sick
It is incredibly important for patients to have a strong support system when going through what is most likely one of the hardest times of their lives, and just being there can do wonders. This is something Kelly Stafford can attest to when it comes to her husband Matthew Stafford’s support.
“He never left my side,” she said of her husband. “I mean when I say I couldn’t do anything. He had to be by my side at every moment.”
Kelly clearly knows first-hand how important it is to have a spouse who will be there for you through thick and thin, which is why she reciprocates that support for Matthew. This time, it was storming the football field to give her husband a big hug and kiss after winning Super Bowl 56.
Illness, including cancer, is also an experience that can surely take an emotional toll on both the patient and the spouse, as well as their relationship.
This is something actress and melanoma survivor Jill Kargman can attest to as cancer was a true test of her relationship’s strength. In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, Kargman said the disease “is a great way to find out if you’re with the love of your life or a shithead.”
“I think it presses the fast-forward button on getting to the bottom of that answer, because a lot of people in middle age are kind of at a crossroads, waiting for their kids to fly the coop,” Kargman said. “I think if you’re with someone who is not supportive and kind of emotionally checked out or doesn’t tell you you’re still beautiful with that, this might not be your person.”