Surgery is usually the first line of treatment for a brain tumour, with a goal of removing as much visible tumour as possible. Surgeons define an operable, or resectable, tumour as one that can be removed without causing severe damage to surrounding, healthy brain tissue. Surgery is also used to relieve the buildup of cerebrospinal fluid, the fluid that bathes the brain, which can result from the growth of a tumour.
A craniotomy is the most common type of surgery. It involves the removal of a piece of the bone of the skull so that access to the tumor is possible. After surgery, the bone is replaced.
Before a definitive diagnosis can be made, a biopsy is usually performed. A biopsy involves taking a small amount of tissue from the tumour through a very thin needle and then examining it. Pathologists will examine the cells and determine the tumor’s grade, level of malignancy, and exact type. A biopsy is often performed during the actual surgical procedure.
New surgical techniques and tools allow for the precise and safe removal of tumours from many parts of the brain. Surgery may be followed by radiation and/or chemotherapy. You should discuss the risks and benefits of surgery with your medical team.