Autoimmune Disease Management 101: Fighting Back

3 Reasons Surgery Might Not Be Your First Treatment For A Brain Tumor

When you are diagnosed with a brain tumor, your first thought might be that you will have surgery to remove the mass. There are many instances when surgery is not the first treatment option and using other treatments might have more benefits.

1. Your Tumor Is Not Serious

Although we automatically think of brain tumors as a serious problem, there are instances where a tumor might not pose a problem. For example, some benign brain tumors that were only discovered during an MRI or CT for another possible neurological condition, might be small and in areas of the brain where there is little impact. This does not mean your neurosurgeon will leave the brain tumor there permanently, but at this time, it may not be worth the risk of performing invasive surgery. In these cases, you will likely have annual imaging tests to determine if the tumor is growing and how fast it is growing. Your surgeon may also decide to perform radiation therapy if the tumor is progressing to avoid surgery altogether.

2. Location Is A Concern

If you have a brain tumor, whether it is benign or malignant, but it is in a bad location, your surgeon might decide surgery poses unnecessary risks. Tumors located deep within the brain may often be inoperable because the surgery may cause irreversible brain damage trying to reach the tumor. When tumors are located in areas at the base of the brain, the consequences can be even more tragic, since these areas of the brain are responsible for basic functions, such as breathing and heart rate. Malignant tumors may respond to chemotherapy or radiation therapy. This may be used to make the tumor smaller, so surgery is an option later, or the treatments may be palliative to help alleviate symptoms of the tumor. Radiation therapy can effectively treat some benign tumors, destroying all or most of the tumor, even in difficult locations.

3. Recurrence Or Metastasis

Some brain tumors, especially those that are malignant, may be a recurrence of a previously removed brain tumor. Your neurosurgeon and oncologist might come to a consensus that another surgery to remove a tumor is not an option. In the instance of metastasis to the brain, which can be especially common with some late-stage cancers, metastasis to the brain is often an indication that previous treatments for cancer are effective or previously effective treatments have stopped working. Instead of removing the tumor, your doctors would likely try other therapies that might be helpful in reducing tumors in your brain and in other areas throughout the body. For people with distant metastasis, surgical removal is unlikely to benefit them.

Having a brain tumor is an intimidating diagnosis, but surgery is not always the first treatment approach. In some cases, watchful waiting or other treatments can have fewer risks. For more information, contact your local neurosurgery center.