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Associate Professor Ng Wai Hoe, Senior Consultant and Medical Director, Department of Neurosurgery, National Neuroscience Institute (NNI), a member of the ​​SingHealth​ group shares on treatment for brain tumour.

Brain tumour treatment

Treatment for brain tumours is similar to that of other cancers – a combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

Benign tumours, which are generally slow-growing, are curable, but the worldwide survival rate of the most serious malignant brain tumours ranges from 12 to 14 months.

Sometimes, patients ask the surgeon to remove the whole tumour but this may not be advisable. As the brain is a delicate and complex organ, one wrong move can result in the loss of faculties such as speech or limb movement.

Prof Ng said: “You can remove anything from the brain, but at what risk? The surgeon must do the most aggressive surgery with minimum injury, so that the patient gets the survival benefits without compromise to his ability to function.”

New Imaging Technology for brain tumours​

​To ensure accuracy, NNI uses the latest technology, including a machine that precisely maps out every portion of the brain and a state-of-the-art MRI machine in its Operating Theatre.

The former (machine) is like a brain GPS system that allows surgeons to scan a patient’s brain in real time during surgery to locate a tumour, decide if it can be removed safely, and see what is left behind. The MRI machine allows the surgeon to perform updated scans with which to update the brain GPS system during surgery. This is similar to updating the maps used for navigation.

A team from NNI is also conducting a trial involving a special fluorescent dye: Injected into the bloodstream, it illuminates cancer cells under a special light so that surgeons can see and effectively remove more of a tumour.

NNI surgeons also perform awake craniotomy, in which a patient is wide awake during brain surgery. “This is done when a tumour is very close to a critical area which, say, controls the hand. As we are operating near the area, we ask the patient to move his hand so that we know we are not damaging the area. The moment he starts to feel a bit of weakness, we stop the surgery to prevent permanent damage.”

Prof Ng said that patients tolerate such surgery well. “No one’s complained so far and studies have shown that these patients are quite happy and comfortable during surgery.”​​

Ref: Q15​​