A study published in the Journal of Neurosurgery has found that patients with brain tumors typically have worse symptoms when they have an acute stroke than when they are diagnosed with acute traumatic brain injury.
In fact, researchers found that stroke patients who had brain tumor lesions suffered more severe symptoms when diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries than did patients with mild brain injury, even when adjusting for other risk factors such as comorbid conditions.
“We found that, despite the obvious similarities between stroke and acute traumatic encephalopathy, there are important differences between these conditions, including the different levels of severity of the acute brain injury,” study co-author Dr. Eric Pang, of the University of Utah, told ABC News.
Brain tumor symptoms can vary widely depending on the type of tumor and the severity of its symptoms.
For instance, strokes can cause headaches, dizziness, and even muscle spasms, while mild traumatic encephalopathy may cause tremors and convulsions.
Brain injury can cause changes in mood and memory, as well as a loss of balance, and symptoms can be so severe that patients can’t drive, operate machinery, or even sit still.
Brain tissue can also heal itself, but not in a way that is comparable to a stroke.
“The underlying cause of a stroke may be that it is not a normal part of the brain, but it’s a normal cell,” Dr. Pang said.
“And there is a subset of patients with strokes that have a brain tumor that is more severe than the rest.”
The researchers also found that strokes and TBI can occur at the same time.
For example, stroke patients can develop the condition of stroke-like symptoms when a patient with mild traumatic brain damage develops the condition.
But for strokes, the stroke-associated symptoms can become milder or disappear entirely after a patient recovers.
Brain cancer symptoms are not always the same across different types of brain tumors.
For some tumors, including brain cancer in the spine, the disease is milder and can be treatable with surgery, while others are more aggressive and can require surgery.
“If a tumor is treated with surgery to treat a tumor that’s milder than a stroke, you might have a slightly higher risk of a recurrence of stroke in the patient with the disease,” Pang explained.
“That’s because the patient might have more tissue damage that would allow for the disease to recur in that particular tumor.”
This research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS).
The findings are published in “Stroke and Traumatic Brain Injury: The Role of Tumor Structure in Relation to Outcome,” the journal of the American College of Surgeons.
ABC News’ Emily Zolna contributed to this report.