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What to Know About Surgery for Brain Tumors

Feb 5, 2009

Surgery is usually the first step in treating many types of brain tumors. For this treatment, you see a doctor who specializes in surgery on the brain or nerves, called a neurosurgeon. To remove a brain tumor, a neurosurgeon will cut a hole in your skull. It is like making a small window in the skull. This surgery is called a craniotomy.

The type of surgery that the neurosurgeon recommends will depend on these factors:

  • The location of the tumor

  • What type of tumor it appears to be, based on imaging 

  • Whether the tumor is causing any pressure on vital areas of the brain   

The surgeon tries to take out the whole tumor when possible.

If the surgeon cannot remove all of the tumor without damaging the brain, he or she will take out as much as possible. This is called debulking surgery. Reducing the size of a tumor through surgery can help relieve pressure on the brain. It can also reduce the amount of follow-up radiation, with or without chemotherapy, you will need.

In areas that are difficult to operate in, the surgeon may use a laser to kill cancer cells.

After surgery, you may need radiation or chemotherapy to try to kill any cancer cells that are left.

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