In 1988, the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology became available for clinical use after decades of research. This diagnostic tool with its capacity for clearer images of the human body opened a new frontier of discovery for neuroscience.
Scientists now have a superior tool for new glimpses into the form and function of the human brain. Over the last thirty years many studies have added to our knowledge and understanding of the brain, a beautifully intricate and complex organ belonging to human beings. Neurologists have taken a seat at the table along with all the great minds spanning the eons of human history, hard scientific data in hand, to provide new material for the never ending conversation: What does it mean to be human?
The technology of the MRI and our understanding continues to evolve. New techniques and advancements have given us clearer pictures to identify brain disease such as tumors and assign predictive values of high and low grade tumors as well as reversibly and irreversibly injured tissue. Even those of us not steeped in science are quickly adopting new terms of brain disease and “brain health.” Exciting opportunities continue to appear for more sensitive targeted imaging and along with it, our capacity to conduct new studies and expand our knowledge base. This leads to improved patient management and reenergizes hope for effective treatments and cures. The downside is that along with advancement come new challenges and more unanswered questions.
In our region those diagnosed with brain tumors and their families or friends understand only too well the new clinical challenges facing scientists. Patients sometimes feel intense loneliness even in the midst of attention and exciting new possibilities. After all, the human brain is still full of mysteries and when we tamper even slightly, the changes can be significant.
More challenges exist for patients. For example, what is normal for recovery and how long should it take? Over the years health care wisdom indicates that patients need to get out of bed, be on their feet and be mentally active. Is that still the right message following brain surgery? Is physical therapy appropriate for dizziness? Why do patients report feeling perfectly normal, yet caregivers notice slight changes in mood or personality? How does one find a new normal following treatment? These are hard questions to raise because the answers probably fall along a spectrum with multiple variables that determine different outcomes.
One thing hard scientific data illustrates is that humans are social beings and we do better on all accounts when we are not alone. Exploration, courage, hope and support have long been hallmarks of the Tri-Cities Cancer Center. From physicians and patients who have asked for a support group in the Tri-Cities for patients with brain tumors, we are happy to create the space and opportunity for that to happen.
Starting Thursday, May 17th at 10:00am, the Tri-Cities Cancer Center will be offering a brain tumor support group open to patients, their family and friends who want to talk with others going through a similar experience. Here is a place to acknowledge the real challenges facing people with a brain tumor and find hope and courage to explore new horizons of understanding. Please join us in this journey of discovery and support.