Wes Craven, Master of Slash and Scream, Dies at 76

He had us jumping out of our seats as the creative mind behind Freddy Krueger’s Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream franchises.

But Wes Craven had a softer side as well, leading Meryl Streep to an Oscar nomination for Music of the Heart. 

Craven is being remembered today after passing away at the age of 76. A statement from his family says the cause of death was brain cancer.

In a Rolling Stone interview on the Top 10 Most Shocking ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ Scenes, Craven showed his wicked sense of humor:

“If whoever makes my gravestone has a sense of humor, it should say, “The man who gave you Freddy Krueger.” But my change would be for it to say, “Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep.” Every time our culture falls asleep, we get into a lot of trouble.”

An Overview of Brain Cancer

nci-vol-4277-72The brain and spinal cord make up the central nervous system (CNS). Brain and spinal cord tumors are growths of abnormal cells in tissues of the brain or spinal cord. Tumors that start in the brain are called primary brain tumors.  Primary brain tumors may spread to other parts of the brain or to the spine. They rarely spread to other parts of the body.

There are many types of brain and spinal cord tumors. The tumors are formed by the abnormal growth of cells and may begin in different parts of the brain or spinal cord.
The tumors may be either benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer):

  • Benign brain and spinal cord tumors grow and press on nearby areas of the brain. They rarely spread into other tissues and may recur (come back).
  • Malignant brain and spinal cord tumors are likely to grow quickly and spread into other brain tissue.

When a tumor grows into or presses on an area of the brain, it may stop that part of the brain from working the way it should. Both benign and malignant brain tumors cause signs and symptoms and need treatment.

Often, tumors found in the brain have started somewhere else in the body and spread to one or more parts of the brain. These are called metastatic brain tumors (or brain metastases). Metastatic brain tumors are more common than primary brain tumors.

Up to half of metastatic brain tumors are from lung cancer. Other types of cancer that commonly spread to the brain include:

There are different types of brain tumors.

Blausen.com staff.

Blausen.com staff.

Brain and spinal cord tumors are named based on the type of cell they formed in and where the tumor first formed in the CNS. The grade of a tumor may be used to tell the difference between slow-growing and fast-growing types of the tumor. The World Health Organization (WHO) tumor grades are based on how abnormal the cancer cells look under a microscope and how quickly the tumor is likely to grow and spread.

WHO Tumor Grading System

  • Grade I (low-grade) — The tumor cells look more like normal cells under a microscope and grow and spread more slowly than grade II, III, and IV tumor cells. They rarely spread into nearby tissues. Grade I brain tumors may be cured if they are completely removed by surgery.
  • Grade II — The tumor cells grow and spread more slowly than grade III and IV tumor cells. They may spread into nearby tissue and may recur (come back). Some tumors may become a higher-grade tumor.
  • Grade III — The tumor cells look very different from normal cells under a microscope and grow more quickly than grade I and II tumor cells. They are likely to spread into nearby tissue.
  • Grade IV (high-grade) — The tumor cells do not look like normal cells under a microscope and grow and spread very quickly. There may be areas of dead cells in the tumor. Grade IV tumors usually cannot be cured.

The following types of primary tumors can form in the brain:

brain-tumor-locations

Astrocytic Tumors

An astrocytic tumor begins in star-shaped brain cells called astrocytes, which help keep nerve cells healthy. An astrocyte is a type of glial cell. Glial cells sometimes form tumors called gliomas. Astrocytic tumors include the following:

  • Brain stem glioma (usually high grade): A brain stem glioma forms in the brain stem, which is the part of the brain connected to the spinal cord. It is often a high-grade tumor, which spreads widely through the brain stem and is hard to cure. Brain stem gliomas are rare in adults.
  • Pineal astrocytic tumor (any grade): A pineal astrocytic tumor forms in tissue around the pineal gland and may be any grade. The pineal gland is a tiny organ in the brain that makes melatonin, a hormone that helps control the sleeping and waking cycle.
  • Pilocytic astrocytoma (grade I): A pilocytic astrocytoma grows slowly in the brain or spinal cord. It may be in the form of a cyst and rarely spreads into nearby tissues. Pilocytic astrocytomas can often be cured.
  • Diffuse astrocytoma (grade II): A diffuse astrocytoma grows slowly, but often spreads into nearby tissues. The tumor cells look something like normal cells. In some cases, a diffuse astrocytoma can be cured. It is also called a low-grade diffuse astrocytoma.
  • Anaplastic astrocytoma (grade III): An anaplastic astrocytoma grows quickly and spreads into nearby tissues. The tumor cells look different from normal cells. This type of tumor usually cannot be cured. An anaplastic astrocytoma is also called a malignant astrocytoma or high-grade astrocytoma.
  • Glioblastoma (grade IV): A glioblastoma grows and spreads very quickly. The tumor cells look very different from normal cells. This type of tumor usually cannot be cured. It is also called glioblastoma multiforme.

Oligodendroglial Tumors

An oligodendroglial tumor begins in brain cells called oligodendrocytes, which help keep nerve cells healthy. An oligodendrocyte is a type of glial cell. Oligodendrocytes sometimes form tumors called oligodendrogliomas. Grades of oligodendroglial tumors include the following:

  • Oligodendroglioma (grade II): An oligodendroglioma grows slowly, but often spreads into nearby tissues. The tumor cells look something like normal cells. In some cases, an oligodendroglioma can be cured.
  • Anaplastic oligodendroglioma (grade III): An anaplastic oligodendroglioma grows quickly and spreads into nearby tissues. The tumor cells look different from normal cells. This type of tumor usually cannot be cured.

Ependymal Tumors

An ependymal tumor usually begins in cells that line the fluid -filled spaces in the brain and around the spinal cord. An ependymal tumor may also be called an ependymoma.

Pineal Parenchymal Tumors

A pineal parenchymal tumor forms in parenchymal cells or pineocytes, which are the cells that make up most of the pineal gland. These tumors are different from pineal astrocytic tumors.

Meningeal Tumors

A meningeal tumor, also called a meningioma, forms in the meninges (thin layers of tissue that cover the brain and spinal cord). It can form from different types of brain or spinal cord cells. Meningiomas are most common in adults.

Craniopharyngioma

A craniopharyngioma is a rare tumor that usually forms in the center of the brain just above the pituitary gland (a pea-sized organ at the bottom of the brain that controls other glands). Craniopharyngiomas can form from different types of brain or spinal cord cells.

The signs and symptoms of adult brain and spinal cord tumors are not the same in every person.

Signs and symptoms depend on the following:

  • Where the tumor forms in the brain or spinal cord.
  • What the affected part of the brain controls.
  • The size of the tumor.

Brain Tumor Symptoms:

  • Morning headache or headache that goes away after vomiting.
  • Seizures.
  • Vision, hearing, and speech problems.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Frequent nausea and vomiting.
  • Changes in personality, mood, ability to focus, or behavior.
  • Loss of balance and trouble walking.
  • Weakness.
  • Unusual sleepiness or change in activity level.

Source: NCI

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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