Epilepsy

Updated 17 July 2014

Epileptic seizures sign of brain tumour?

People with epileptic seizures are much more likely than others to be diagnosed with a brain tumor, a new study indicates.

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People with epileptic seizures are much more likely than others to be diagnosed with a brain tumour, a new study indicates.

The findings suggest that epileptic seizures may indicate the presence of a very early-stage tumour or a tumour that hasn't been detected on brain scans, the researchers noted.

They looked at data on hospital admissions between 1963 and 2005 and subsequent diagnoses of, or deaths from, brain tumours among those patients. The analysis revealed that people who had a first-ever hospital admission for epileptic seizure were nearly 20 times more likely to develop a brain tumour than people admitted to the hospital for other reasons.

Even when the researchers factored in the possibility that brain tumours might have been missed or not recorded in the first year after admission for epilepsy, the risk was still 7.5 to nine times higher for patients with epileptic seizures.

Brain tumours likely in epileptics

The study also found that people with epilepsy were more than 25 times as likely to develop a cancerous brain tumour and more than 10 times as likely to develop a benign tumour than other patients.

The greatest risk was in epilepsy patients aged 15-44, who were 24 to 38 times more likely to develop a brain tumour than people of the same age without epilepsy.

The risk of brain tumour persisted for some years after an initial epilepsy-related hospitalisation - up to a more than sixfold greater risk for as long as 14 years.

Brain tumours are rare, even among those with epilepsy, the researchers noted. The overall risk of a brain tumour in 15-to-44-year-olds, for example, was about 1 to 2%.

"Our study suggests that tumour as an underlying cause for epilepsy may not become apparent for several years after onset, and indicates a need for ongoing vigilance," the researchers wrote. The study appears online in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.


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