Brain surgery. Scary words. If you are reading this then it is highly likely you have recently learnt that you are going to have neurosurgery. This is one of the first major decisions you will face. In fact, I don’t think there is anything as frightening as facing this decision – ever. If you can make this decision – one way or the other – then nothing you do will ever be as scary as this.

But you are not facing this alone. You will have a brilliant team behind you, your family will be there and there are local brain tumour support charities to help.

No decision is going to be straightforward. It’s all a balance of risk v. benefits and the truth is that there is seldom a good reason to remove a brain tumour unless you think you can remove the vast majority. Partial resection can sometimes be a bad thing. I think what we’re saying here is that each case needed to be decided individually; so much depends on quality of life, type of brain tumour, where it is. The list goes on.

First decision – whether to proceed with an attempted complete surgical removal or whether to have just a biopsy. Evidence shows that wherever possible it is better to resect as much as is possible. Surgery to remove a tumour, even malignant ones, has several theoretical advantages over a biopsy:

– By removing tumour mass, room can be made to allow for the swelling of brain tissue which occurs both with radiation therapy and if the tumour recurs.

– The more that can be taken out, the less will need to be treated with other forms of therapy.

– More tumour to diagnose, better the accuracy of the diagnosis and grading, because there are more cells to examine.

This is theoretical – everything depends on the individual’s well being, the nature of thetumour, potential complications. All of these must be talked through and thought about. And thought about some more. But don’t think for too long. It can be very wearying and will occupy your head so that in the end you will not feel able to make a decision. And no decision is irreversible – until you go down to the operating theatre.  

Information courtesy of Brainstrust

Neurosurgery for Adults

Neurosurgery for Children

Two helpful guides to Neurosurgery produced by The Brain Tumour Charity