A diagnosis of a brain tumor can be a difficult and scary one for patients. They may be wondering what their prognosis is, what treatment they will be undergoing, and what side effects may occur.
When it comes to deciding what treatment will be done, the patient’s doctor will look at several factors, including the patient’s age, her general health, the location of the brain tumor, what type of brain tumor the patient has, and what grade the tumor is. The three main options for treatment of a brain tumor are radiation therapy, chemotherapy and surgery.
Surgery is often the first treatment for a brain tumor, according to the National Cancer Institute. To access the brain tumor, the surgeon must perform a craniotomy, in which she removes a part of the patient’s skull. The patient is given anesthesia during the operation and the surgeon replaces the part of the skull that was removed.
If the patient undergoes a craniectomy, the bone is not replaced after closing the incision, which can occur in cases in which swelling is expected. In some cases, the patient may be awake during the surgery.
This is called an awake craniotomy, in which the patient is under local anesthesia. With this type of craniotomy, the surgeon can ask the patient to follow certain commands, which helps prevent damage to critical areas of the brain. Once the surgeon has access to the brain, she can begin removing the tumor. Options include debulking, partial removal and complete removal.
With debulking, the surgeon removes as much of the tumor as possible. The American Brain Tumor Association noted that with the term debulking, it does not indicate the type of procedure done or how much was removed.
If a partial removal is done, only part of the tumor is surgical removed, due to a risk for neurological damage if a complete removal was done. In these cases, the patient will undergo another type of treatment, such as chemotherapy or radiation.
The whole tumor is removed with a complete removal, though it is possible for a regrowth of tumor cells.