Last August, my mother underwent an eight hour surgery to remove an olfactory neuroblastoma that had spread from her nasal cavity to her frontal lobe. A few weeks after the surgery, an infection formed where the tumor had been, and her forehead was removed. During the second week of September, she will be undergoing another round of surgeries to remove metastases in the lymph nodes and put in a new forehead.
We are all incredibly hopeful, since the cancer has not spread below the neck, and her oncologist said that “her case is curable”—one of the most wonderful things you can ever hear from a doctor.
According to the National Institutes of Health, brain surgery is pretty straight forward. To start, the patient's hair is shaved, and the scalp is cleansed in preparation for surgery. While my mother is looking forward to a forehead, she is not too happy about losing the hair she waited so long to grow back after chemotherapy. After the scalp is prepped, an incision is made on the scalp. According to the National Institutes of Health, the incision is made behind the hairline, in front of the patient's ear, or along the neck where the hairline is; however, the incision may be elsewhere depending on where the tumor is. My mother's first incision goes from ear to ear: as soon as her hair started growing in, you could not even tell that she had a scar.
Once the incision is made, the scalp is pulled up and a hole is made in the skull. Called a bone flap, the piece of bone is removed so the surgeon can reach the brain tumor. In some cases, a special microscope is used. When the doctors performed surgery on my mother, they removed the majority of the tumor, then used the microscope to remove the remnants of the tumor. After the surgery is done, the bone flap is replaced and held with small metal plates, sutures or wires.
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