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Whether your glioblastoma brain tumor surgery has already been scheduled or you are still in the treatment planning phase, it can be helpful to learn more about what to expect before, during and after your procedure. Not only will it provide you with confidence about your upcoming treatment, but it can also allow you to plan ahead, giving you more time to focus on your recovery.

The following information will give you insight into recommendations your glioblastoma neurosurgeon may make in the days ahead of your procedure, what you can expect when you arrive at the hospital for your surgery and some of the things you will likely experience after your treatment. Though your specific treatment plan and recovery may vary, it can be helpful to have a general understanding of what many patients will experience.

An Overview of Glioblastoma

Glioblastoma is the most common form of primary brain tumors in adults and arises from astrocytes, which are specialized support cells within the brain. This is why you may also hear of glioblastoma referred to as a type of astrocytoma, which in turn, is a type of glioma.

One thing that differentiates glioblastoma from other brain tumors is its aggressive nature. Glioblastomas are able to grow very quickly and invade local surrounding tissues. This is why your treatment plan likely includes multiple forms of therapy, such as surgery followed by radiation therapy and/or oral chemotherapy. This is also why it is important to begin your treatment as soon as possible following your glioblastoma diagnosis.

What to Expect Before Glioblastoma Brain Tumor Surgery

Prior to your surgery, your doctor may have you make modifications to medications you are currently taking. It’s important that your doctor has a complete and updated list of everything you take, both prescription or over-the-counter, as well as any vitamins or supplements. However, never make any modifications to your prescription medication dosage without consulting your physician first.

Because you will be under general anesthesia during your surgery, your doctor will also give you specific instructions regarding food and drink intake the night before and morning of your procedure. These are for your comfort and safety, so it is imperative you follow these directions exactly. If you have pills you need to take with a sip of water, ask your doctor beforehand so know whether that will be allowed.

What to Expect During Glioblastoma Brain Tumor Surgery

On the day of your surgery, you should arrive at the hospital approximately one hour before your scheduled appointment to allow time for checking in. Wear something comfortable and be sure to bring any essentials, as most patients spend a few days recovering in the hospital after surgery.

During the procedure itself, you will be under general anesthesia to ensure you are as comfortable as possible. Once the surgery is over, you will awaken in an intensive-care unit, where your team will monitor your breathing, blood pressure and heart rate.

When your doctor determines you are stable, you will be transferred to a separate room and stay there to recover for about three days. Some patients will require a longer stay than others, depending upon your specific procedure and personal health factors. When you are ready, your doctor will release you to begin your recovery at home.

What to Expect After Glioblastoma Brain Tumor Surgery

In the time at home immediately following your glioblastoma brain tumor surgery, you can expect to be on activity restrictions, limiting the amount of exercise and lifting you can do. Your doctor will develop specific guidelines tailored to your individual situation, and it is important that you follow them exactly, giving your body the time it needs to heal.

After your surgery, you can expect to have follow-up visits with your doctor, which will typically include diagnostic imaging to visualize any remaining tumor. Most patients will also begin a six-week course of radiation therapy in conjunction with oral chemotherapy. Your doctor will likely write you a prescription for temozolomide (Temodar), a pill taken by mouth once daily that is generally well-tolerated with few side effects.

During this period, you will likely be feeling fatigued from the amount of glioblastoma treatment you are undergoing. However, being mentally prepared for the intensive treatment regimen and keeping a positive outlook can help you from feeling overwhelmed. Use your support network — be it family, friends or other patients — during this time, and try and focus your energy on feeling better.

Keep Educating Yourself About Your Condition

Self-education is a powerful way to take control of your health during this period. Spending a little time learning about your glioblastoma, your upcoming glioblastoma brain tumor surgery and what to expect is a great way to develop confidence. The more comfortable you are with your treatment, the more you can rest easy knowing you have made good decisions and instead focus on your recovery.

If you find you still have questions regarding your glioblastoma brain tumor surgery, be sure to bring them up with your doctor at your next appointment. He or she will be happy to discuss your concerns to ensure you are completely comfortable with your treatment plan and scheduled procedures.
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