Maria Menounos and Brain Tumor Awareness Month

FILE - In this April 12, 2016, file photo, Maria Menounos arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of "Captain America: Civil War" at the Dolby Theatre. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File )

NEW YORK – Greek-American TV personality Maria Menounos spoke about her and her mother’s health in an appearance on NBC’s Today show. She told Today co-host Savannah Guthrie that her mother’s condition is “stable” and the family had held a celebration at their home in Connecticut for her mother’s 1 year of life, the anniversary of her cancer diagnosis.

When asked on Today about how she herself was doing after her surgery last June to remove a golfball-size benign tumor, she noted that her post-surgery symptoms are “getting better and better” and “each week you see differences.”

“I still have a hard time chewing on my right side because it was on my right side so it affected the trigeminal nerve which controls all of your face, and so chewing here, my jaw it’s not right yet, little things, I can get dizzy moving my head side to side. Overall I feel so lucky to be functioning and to be almost normal and to not have cancer,” she told Today.

Menounos said that her family noted how quiet she has become, “I’m just so much calmer now, because I just see things so differently now,” Today reported.

She pointed out that turning to the positives and seeing the situation as a gift was important, “Out of every bad thing, something good comes if you open your mind to it.”

There are symptoms that should not be ignored

As reported on today.com, “May is Brain Tumor Awareness Month, dedicated to the 700,000 Americans living with a brain tumor and the estimated 79,000 who will be diagnosed this year, according to the National Brain Tumor Society. Brain tumors are equal opportunity culprits, affecting men and women of all ages and races, experts said. Sen. John McCain became one of the most high-profile patients when he was diagnosed with brain cancer last summer.”

Dr. Steven Kalkanis, chair of neurosurgery at Henry Ford Health System and medical director of the Henry Ford Cancer Institute in Detroit, said, Today reported, that “there’s no more serious diagnosis in all of human medicine than a brain tumor because it not only is a medical issue that has to be treated, but it actually affects the psyche, the soul of the entire personhood of a human being.”

When asked why brain tumors form, Dr. Kalkanis told Today that “it’s a mistake in cell division that could happen at any time. Thankfully, it’s rare.”

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS) website, “Most people with brain tumors do not have a family history of the disease, but in rare cases brain and spinal cord cancers run in families. In general, patients with familial cancer syndromes tend to have many tumors that first occur when they are young.”

ACS also noted that “The risk of many cancers in adults can be reduced with certain lifestyle changes (such as staying at a healthy weight or quitting smoking). But other than radiation exposure, there are no known lifestyle-related or environmental risk factors for brain and spinal cord tumors, so at this time there is no known way to protect against most of these tumors.”

The symptoms that should not be ignored are headaches that worsen over time and do not go away or respond to typical headache medicines and are accompanied by other symptoms including balance problems, weakness, numbness, vision changes, seizures, and confusion or mental status changes. Dr. Kalkanis said, “The whole world has headaches so anyone with a headache should not be worried about having a brain tumor,” Today reported, adding that “persistent, worsening headaches accompanied by other symptoms” should be checked by a physician.

In terms of treatment, patients diagnosed with malignant tumors usually undergo surgery, then radiation and chemotherapy, while patients with benign tumors typically only need surgery to remove the growth. Referring to the advances in treatment, Dr. Kalkanis noted that “even though a diagnosis of a brain tumor is very scary, there’s never been a time when there’s been more hope,” Today reported.