Toothache to Cancer
- Emma Webster, a 29-year-old Scottish woman, knew something was wrong when her toothache wouldn’t go away, but she wasn’t prepared for a cancer diagnosis.
- After she underwent a root canal and was misdiagnosed with neuralgia, the mom of one was referred to the neurology department at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow, where an MRI scan revealed she had a brain tumor behind her right eye.
- There are many different types of brain and spinal cord tumors. Some are more likely to spread into nearby parts of the brain or spinal cord than others. Slow-growing tumors may be considered benign (non-cancerous), but even these tumors can cause serious problems.
The loving mom and wife, who works as an administrator in North Lanarkshire, Scotland, and is expecting a second child this fall, was treated for the condition for six months, only to experience more unusual symptoms — ultimately leading to her cancer diagnosis.Read More
“I went to see another GP who thought I had neuralgia and gave me medication for that,” Webster added. “I was being treated for six months but it wasn’t helping at all, and my symptoms were getting worse, and I had blurred vision.”
She was then referred to the neurology department at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow, in January 2019 and an MRI scan revealed she had a brain tumor behind her right eye.
“When I found out it didn’t sink in at all. I even went back to work, but later that day when I was on the phone I broke down. I kept thinking ‘why me? What have I done wrong?’ I could only think of Alfie and what would happen to him if he lost his mom,” said Webster, who is engaged to 31-year-old Kieran McGurk and shares a seven-year-old son with him. “I was ready to start planning my funeral.”
“I can’t believe I’ve now got to the stage I am not always having to be at the hospital but instead we bought our new home, I am getting married in two years, and I’m expecting my second child in eight weeks. I never thought that would be the case back in 2019,” Webster continued.
In March 2019, Webster underwent surgery to remove 70% of the benign tumor found behind her eye. Following the operation, she suffered from headaches and had difficulty balancing for eight months.
The discomfort she felt after surgery has since subsided, although she still has root pain, and Webster now gets yearly scans to check on the tumor’s growth.
Webster also revealed she has a family history of brain cancer.
“Brain tumors run in my family. My nana, Alice Travers, was just 55 when she died from a brain tumor in February 2001. My parents were so worried that the same thing would happen to me,” Webster, who credits her family and friends for supporting her throughout her cancer battle, said.
What Are Brain Tumors?
According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), brain tumors account for 85 to 90 percent of all primary central nervous system (CNS) tumors. The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord and acts as the main “processing center” for the nervous system.
Normal function of the brain and spinal cord can become difficult if there’s a tumor present that puts pressure on or spreads into nearby normal tissue.
There are many different types of brain and spinal cord tumors. Some are more likely to spread into nearby parts of the brain or spinal cord than others. Slow-growing tumors may be considered benign (non-cancerous), but even these tumors can cause serious problems.
Symptoms of Brain Cancer
Symptoms of brain tumors, as a whole, are often caused by increased pressure in the skull. This pressure can be caused by tumor growth, swelling in the brain or blockage of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), according to the American Cancer Society.
Generally, symptoms of brain tumors can include:
- Blurred vision
- Balance problems
- Personality or behavior changes
- Drowsiness or even coma
It is important to note that these symptoms are not exclusive to brain tumors. You should always consult with your doctor if any health problems arise.
As always, if you are experiencing any symptoms that don’t go away or get worse over time, visit your doctor to get checked out.
Not Every Brain Tumor is Cancerous
Naturally, a lot of people think “cancer” when they hear the word tumor. However, most brain tumors aren’t actually cancerous. Less than one third (approximately 32%) of brain tumors are considered malignant (cancerous), according to the American Brain Tumor Association.
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 ABTA.
Oftentimes after an MRI, a biopsy will be performed on a brain tumor to determine its type. Sometimes, the results of imaging tests show that a tumor is likely to be non-malignant, and a biopsy is not necessary.
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff