In most cases, brain tumors should be removed whenever possible. Exceptions to surgery include benign, small tumors not causing symptoms, which may sometimes be observed. However, deciding about the best technique for treating the tumor depends on many variables, from the type of brain tumor to the patient's overall health and symptoms.
If you face difficult decisions about the best treatment for a brain tumor, you need a neurosurgeon like Richard B. Kim, MD. He has extensive experience and a well-deserved reputation for his expertise in treating brain tumors, and he cares for each person with compassion and respect.
In this blog post, Dr. Kim shares an overview of the factors that go into treatment decisions for brain tumors.
Tumor removal is the gold standard
With a brain tumor, there's no doubt that the first line of treatment is surgery to remove the tumor. It’s essential to take out a malignant (cancerous) tumor. These life-threatening tumors often grow rapidly, invading and destroying the surrounding brain tissues.
However, benign (noncancerous) tumors can be just as dangerous. Some benign tumors grow slowly and seldom spread. Others get larger and spread, damaging widespread parts of the brain. Additionally, some benign tumors can turn into cancer.
Even a small, well-defined, benign tumor can cause serious problems, depending on its location. A benign brain tumor may be in a vital area, causing pressure on the nerves responsible for life-sustaining functions. The tumor could also be in an area where it blocks the flow of fluids in the brain.
If you have a brain tumor, the only way to protect you from brain damage and loss of function is to surgically remove the tumor.
Factors affecting surgery
The most important factors include the type, location, and grade of your brain tumor. We perform extensive diagnostic testing to identify the tumor's size and see if it has distinct borders or has spread. If we can safely perform a biopsy, we use the sample to determine if the tumor is malignant or benign and assess how fast it's growing.
Based on the tumor's size and location, we decide how much of the tumor we can remove without damaging the surrounding healthy nerves. If we can't remove the entire tumor, we take out as much as possible. Then you may need radiation therapy or chemotherapy, depending on the type of tumor.
In some cases, we may recommend other options, such as stereotactic radiosurgery or laser interstitial thermal therapy. These techniques precisely target the tumor with radiation or laser energy.
Surgery to remove the tumor
We use several advanced brain surgery techniques, customizing your procedure by choosing the one that’s best for your brain tumor.
Traditional brain surgery, called a craniotomy, involves opening a small portion of the skill so we can access the tumor. We also specialize in other brain surgery procedures, including minimally invasive options such as microcraniotomy or neuroendoscopy.
During a microcraniotomy, we make a small opening. Then we use a surgical microscope to see the tumor and specialized tools to remove it.
Neuroendoscopy is a technique for removing tumors at the front or base of your brain. These tumors are hard to reach using traditional surgery.
Instead, we reach the tumor by guiding a thin endoscope through your nose and sinuses. Alternatively, we can insert the scope through a tiny hole in your skull near your eyebrow to reach tumors above or behind your eyes.
Two examples of the advanced technologies we use to ensure that we safely eliminate as much tumor as possible include:
During stereotactic brain surgery, we use real-time imaging to precisely identify the location of the tumor and guide your surgery. The detailed images allow us to safely remove as much of the tumor as possible while preserving healthy tissues.
We use different techniques during your surgery to map the critical parts of your brain, like the area controlling motor activity. This allows us to determine if the tumor has invaded an essential area, which in turn helps us decide whether we can aggressively remove the entire tumor without affecting your ability to function.
If you need to learn more about surgery for a brain tumor, call Richard B. Kim, MD, or request an appointment online today.