Brain Tumor Surgery

People with brain tumors have several treatment options. Depending on the tumor type and stage, patients may be treated with surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. Some patients receive a combination of treatments.
In addition, at any stage of disease, patients may have treatment to control pain and other symptoms of the cancer, to relieve the side effects of therapy, and to ease emotional problems. This kind of treatment is called symptom management, supportive care, or palliative care.
The doctor is the best person to describe the treatment choices and discuss the expected results.
A patient may want to talk to the doctor about taking part in a clinical trial, which is a research study of new treatment methods. The section on “The Promise of Cancer Research” has more information about clinical trials.
Surgery is the usual treatment for most brain tumors. Surgery to open the skull is called a craniotomy. It is performed under general anesthesia. Before surgery begins, the scalp is shaved. The surgeon then makes an incision in the scalp and uses a special type of saw to remove a piece of bone from the skull. After removing part or all of the tumor, the surgeon covers the opening in the skull with that piece of bone or with a piece of metal or fabric. The surgeon then closes the incision in the scalp.
Sometimes surgery is not possible. If the tumor is in the brain stem or certain other areas, the surgeon may not be able to remove the tumor without damaging normal brain tissue. Patients who cannot have surgery may receive radiation or other treatment.