Surgery for brain cancer
Surgery in the brain or spinal cord is called neurosurgery.
Learn more about:
- Why have surgery?
- What to expect before surgery
- Types of surgery for brain cancer
- What to expect after surgery
- Side effects of surgery
- Video: Surgery for brain cancer
Why have surgery?
You may have surgery to:
- remove the whole tumour (total resection)
- remove part of the tumour (partial resection or debulking)
- help diagnose a brain tumour (biopsy).
Partial resection or debulking may be considered because the tumour is widespread, near major blood vessels or near other important parts of the brain or spinal cord. A partial resection may help reduce the pressure on your brain, which will improve some of the symptoms.
Sometimes a tumour cannot be safely removed because it is too close to certain parts of the brain and surgery would cause blindness or partial paralysis. This is called an inoperable or unresectable tumour. Your doctor will talk to you about other ways of easing symptoms.
What to expect before surgery
The different scans used to diagnose a brain tumour (such as CT, MRI or PET scans) are often done again to plan surgery.
The surgeon needs to know where the most important areas of the brain are to make sure these are not damaged during the operation. A type of MRI scan called a functional MRI (fMRI) shows the exact areas of the brain that are used as you speak or move.
These parts of the brain are also found with brain mapping. A tiny electrode is placed on the outside layer of the brain during surgery and stimulated with a low dose of electrical current.
Tell your doctor about any blood-thinning or other medicines you are taking. Some medicines interfere with the anaesthetic used during the operation, so you may need to stop taking them for a while. If you smoke, it is important to stop before surgery. Continuing to smoke can increase the risk of complications.
|Having surgery to the brain can sound frightening and it is natural to feel anxious beforehand. Talk to your treatment team about your concerns, call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for support, or listen to our podcast on Managing Fear.|
Video: Surgery for brain cancer
Find out more about the surgery options for brain cancer, including craniotomy, awake craniotomy, and endoscopic surgery.
Podcast: Making Treatment Decisions
A/Prof Andrew Davidson, Neurosurgeon, Macquarie University Hospital, NSW; Dr Lucy Gately, Medical Oncologist, Oncology Clinics Victoria, and Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, VIC; Melissa Harrison, Allied Health Manager and Senior Neurological Physiotherapist, Advance Rehab Centre, NSW; Scott Jones, Consumer; Anne King, Neurology Cancer Nurse Coordinator, Health Department, WA; Dr Toni Lindsay, Senior Clinical Psychologist and Allied Health Manager, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; Elissa McVey, Consumer; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Dr Claire Phillips, Deputy Director, Radiation Oncology, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
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