If you are diagnosed with a brain tumor, you may think the next step will be surgery, but this is not always the case. Brain surgery is not always the first-line treatment option or even necessary depending on the type and location of the tumor.
Surgery Would Do More Harm
Part of the decision whether to do surgery or not might rest on the risks associated with surgery. In some instances a tumor, regardless of whether it is malignant or benign, is located in an area of the brain that is difficult to reach or that is near important brain structures. In this situation, doing the surgery poses more risks than leaving the tumor alone, at least for a while. Depending on the type and location of the tumor, the surgery itself could lead to an increased risk of mortality or irreversible brain damage that is not worth the risk.
The Tumor Is Not Serious
Some small, benign brain tumors are actually left intact and monitored because they do not pose any serious risks. Although having a brain tumor sounds like a serious medical condition, some are only noticed during testing for another condition and could stay in the brain without causing symptoms for years or decades. Typically, these tumors are slow-growing and are not infiltrating the brain but simply pressing on brain tissue. This is the reason they can go unnoticed, and surgery may be reserved for when or if the tumor grows large enough to cause problems.
Other Treatments Should Be Tried
Whether you have malignant or benign tumors, you might benefit from other treatment options before surgery is considered. For example, chemotherapy or radiation might be used for malignant tumors that are large and have a low chance of complete resection. If these treatments are successful, they might give surgeons a better chance at complete resection later.
Even benign tumors might be treated with radiation if brain surgery would be risky. When benign tumors are encroaching on critical brain structures, even reducing the size of the tumor by a few millimeters could make the difference between an uneventful surgery and an operation that causes damage to memory, language, or personality centers of the brain. Some minimally invasive procedures might be curative in some instances of benign tumors, making surgery completely unnecessary.
The diagnosis of a brain tumor can be a scary diagnosis, but the idea of brain surgery might be equally concerning. Since treatment depends on the type of tumor and its location, surgery may not be the first treatment option.
To learn more, contact a resource like North Texas Neuroscience Center PA.