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Better Together with Maria Menounos: #BrainTumorAwarenessMonth

TV and podcast host Maria Menounos has spent much of her career featuring news and events happening in the lives of other people. But in a recent episode of her podcast, Better Together with Maria Menounos, she opened up about being diagnosed with a benign brain tumor while her mother also was fighting brain cancer.

In the episode, which aired during Brain Tumor Awareness Month, Menounos interviewed prominent neurosurgeon, Keith L. Black, MD, chair of Cedars-Sinai's Department of Neurosurgery. Black performed Menounos' surgery as well as her mother's.

Together, Menounos and Black took a deep dive into all things brain tumors, including symptoms, risk factors and the role genetics plays in some families. Black also shared a few profound facts about the brain, including the concept that the brain cannot feel – which is why patients can be awake while undergoing some procedures.

“The brain controls everything we do and everything we sense,” Black told Menounos, when asked about the symptoms of a brain tumor. “A symptom could be anything that we experience that is different from our normal experiences on a weekly, monthly or daily basis.”

The range, Black shared, can be anything from sensory changes, numbness, tingling, weakness, visual disturbances – including vertigo and dizziness – and more commonly, headaches. More urgent warning signs include vomiting and seizures.

Black also differentiated between benign brain tumors and cancerous brain tumors. Although not cancerous, benign brain tumors can be deadly because they attack and kill surrounding brain tissue.

The good thing about benign brain tumors like the one Menounos had, Black explained, is that “in most cases, benign tumors can be cured with surgery. That’s the good part of what we do.”

Cancerous tumors can be treated in part with surgery, Black said, “but there are microscopic cells that can get away from the main mass and cause the tumor to regrow.” These types of tumors may need additional treatments, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy, Black told Menounos.

Black also discussed some of his latest research in the field, including studies pertaining to diet and lifestyle.

“My philosophy is to give the body the greatest advantage it has to fighting the tumor and disadvantage the tumor as much as you can," Black told Menounos. 

In addition to raising awareness for brain tumors on her podcast, Menounos recently participated – and won first prize – on the game show, Family Feud. Menounos won $25,000 on the special celebrity episode, that will be donated to the Cedars-Sinai Brain Trust.

Click here to listen to the complete Better Together with Maria Menounos episode. 

Read more on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: Brain Food: Feed Your Head with the "Brain Bowl"