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What to Expect After a Brain Cancer Surgical Procedure

One of the most common treatments for brain cancer is surgery. Typically, the goal of surgery is to remove as much of the tumor as possible while avoiding damaging healthy brain tissue. Removing the tumor relieves pressure on your brain and may help you feel better. Chemotherapy or radiation therapy is frequently used in conjunction with an operation to eliminate cancer cells that were not surgically removed. Cancer can develop in a variety of areas of the brain.

Only if the tumor is small, easily accessible, and hasn’t spread to other parts of your body is surgery an option. In this article, Dr. Mohana Rao, one of Guntur’s top neurosurgeons, breaks down everything you need to know about brain cancer surgery, including the risks, recovery expectations, and current success rates.

What role does surgery play in the treatment of brain cancer?

Today, there are over 130 different types of brain tumors. Depending on the type and location of your tumor, the best treatment option will be determined.

Surgery is one of the five standard treatments for brain cancer, which also includes:

  • immunotherapy and chemotherapy
  • targeted therapy
  • active surveillance
  • radiation therapy

When it comes to brain cancer, surgery is frequently the first treatment option. It’s used to either remove or slow the growth of a tumor. According to Dr. Mohana Rao, a leading neurosurgeon in Guntur, removing a portion of the tumor may help improve your symptoms in some cases. After surgery, radiation or chemotherapy are frequently used to kill any remaining cancer cells.

If your tumor is small and easily removed, your doctor may recommend surgery. It’s often used to treat types of brain cancer that are expected to grow slowly, like:

  • astrocytoma
  • ganglioglioma
  • meningioma
  • ependymoma
  • craniopharyngioma

Treatment options for brain cancer surgery

The most common types of surgical procedures used to treat brain cancer, according to Guntur’s expert neurosurgeon, are:

  • Biopsy. A biopsy is a procedure in which a small tissue sample is taken and examined under a microscope. This assists doctors in determining whether or not a tumor is cancerous and, if so, what type of cancer it is.
  • Craniotomy. A craniotomy is a surgical procedure that involves the removal of a portion of your skull to allow surgeons to operate on your brain and remove the tumor.
  • Endoscopy of the endonasal cavity. An endonasal endoscopy is a procedure in which a surgeon uses a thin tube called an endoscope to gain access to the brain from the nose.
  • Laser ablation with MRI guidance. A fiber-optic laser is inserted through a small hole in your skull during MRI-guided laser ablation, which is a minimally invasive procedure. Surgeons then use the laser’s heat to kill cancer cells.
  • Neuroendoscopy. A small section of your skull is removed to allow an endoscope to be inserted. This is used to treat obstructive hydrocephalus, hamartomas, and tumors at the base of the skull.

Surgical technique

The surgical procedure for removing a brain tumor is determined by the type of tumor. However, you’ll most likely:

  • Before surgery, have a doctor or nurse give you specific instructions, such as stopping drinking and eating.
  • have a presurgical assessment where you meet your treatment team a week or two before the surgery and have a biopsy where the doctor takes a small tissue sample of your tumor
  • have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have about the procedure 
  • required to take steroids some days before the surgery to decrease swelling within your brain

What are the risks associated with brain surgery?

Each surgery entails some level of risk. General surgery risks include:

  • deep vein thrombosis
  • urinary retention
  • bleeding
  • infection
  • anesthesia reaction
  • scarring

Because of the possibility of damaging brain tissue or other structures in your head, brain surgery carries additional risks. The following are some of the potential dangers:

  • brain fluid leak
  • memory problems
  • muscle weakness
  • balance issues
  • facial nerve damage
  • damage to your sinuses
  • paralysis
  • coma
  • speech problems
  • seizures
  • stroke

Swelling in the brain is one of the most severe side effects of brain cancer surgery. According to Dr. Mohana Rao, “Swelling can put pressure on your brain, worsening your symptoms or resulting in long-term brain damage. Corticosteroids are commonly used to reduce swelling.” Factors that increase your chances of having a surgical complication

Risk factors for surgical complications, according to Dr. Mohana Rao, include:

  • obesity
  • advanced age
  • smoking
  • sleep apnea
  • waking up during surgery

What does the healing process entail?

The length of time it takes you to recover is determined by factors such as the type of surgery you had, the scope of the procedure, and the side effects you experienced. A urinary catheter will be placed in your bladder for several days, and you will have regular neurological examinations. You’ll be taken to the recovery unit or intensive care unit to be monitored after your procedure. You can expect to spend about a week in the hospital once you’re stable.

You’ll most likely need time off work after returning home, and you may be tired for up to 6 weeks. Some people recover in a matter of weeks, while others may take months, if not years, to fully recover. Following surgery, you will most likely experience some swelling. Headaches, nausea, and a loss of balance may occur as a result of the swelling.

It’s a good idea to do the following during your recovery:

  • increase your activity level slowly
  • get plenty of rest
  • exercise regularly, as recommended by your doctor, to maintain your health and decrease your risk of blood clots
  • eat a balanced diet
  • have someone check your wounds every day for the first couple of weeks
  • avoid consuming alcohol and smoking
  • avoid driving until your doctor says you can
  • avoid direct heat to your head for a couple of weeks

What kind of follow-up care might I require following my brain surgery?

Following brain surgery, you may require a variety of types of follow-up care. Physical, occupational, or speech therapy are all options for treatment. For weeks to months after your surgery, you may benefit from physical, occupational, or speech therapy.

Physical therapy aids in the improvement of balance, strength, and walking ability. Occupational therapy aids in the management of side effects and the completion of daily tasks. Speech therapy can help you overcome language difficulties.

Follow-ups with the doctor

After your surgery, you’ll need to check in with your doctor to make sure you’re cancer-free. For aggressive cancers, follow-ups are usually scheduled every three to six months for the first five years, then once a year after that. You may only require seeing your doctor every six to twelve months, then each year or two for less threatening cancers for the first five years.

During follow-up appointments, your doctor will perform a neurological exam to monitor your symptoms and order imaging tests such as MRI or CT scans to check for any signs of your cancer returning, according to Dr. Mohana Rao, a neurosurgeon from Guntur.


Medications will most likely be prescribed for you to take in the weeks following your surgery. If these medications aren’t working or causing side effects, you may need to see your doctor again.

Phenytoin is frequently prescribed to lower your seizure risk. To prevent constipation, lactulose may be prescribed. To reduce swelling in your brain, you may be given the corticosteroid dexamethasone. Pain relievers such as paracetamol, codeine phosphate, and diclofenac may be prescribed.

How effective is surgery in the treatment of brain cancer?

For small or easily accessible tumors, surgery is an option. Survival rates vary greatly depending on the type of cancer, and they tend to decline as people get older.

Predicted survival rates can help you understand what to expect, but various factors influence your survival rate. Your medical team can assist you in determining your chances of survival. People who have their brain tumors surgically removed have a higher survival rate than those who do not. Glioblastoma, for example, accounts for about 52 percent of all primary brain tumors.

Last but not least

One of the most common treatments for brain cancer is surgery. To destroy tumors or slow their progression, it’s frequently combined with radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Small tumors in areas where they can be easily removed are best treated with surgery. Your doctor can assist you in determining whether surgery is the best option for you. They can also estimate your chances of success and notify you of any clinical trials that you might be eligible for.

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