Surgery for a secondary, or metastatic, brain tumor can be an important part of a comprehensive cancer care plan, and as people are living longer than ever with many types of cancer, this kind of surgery is becoming more common. Secondary brain tumor surgery is a generally safe procedure that can relieve tumor symptoms and set the stage for further treatment, so finding the right surgeon can play a key role in your successful recovery.
Why Have Surgery for a Secondary Brain Tumor?
Secondary brain tumors arise when cancer cells from a primary tumor elsewhere in the body migrate, or metastasize, to the brain. Depending on their location within the brain, these tumors can cause a range of symptoms, including headaches, seizures or problems with speech, vision and coordination.
Not all secondary brain tumors are treated with surgery. But when a tumor is isolated and accessible to surgery, removing it or reducing its size can reduce or eliminate symptoms and improve overall quality of life. In these situations, surgery is often the first step in a longer-term treatment plan that can include various forms of radiation therapy and, in some cases, chemotherapy.
The surgical removal of a secondary brain tumor usually takes between two and three hours, and patients typically recover in the hospital for three or four days before returning home. Without complications, it’s possible to return to normal activities within a week or two. Your surgeon and other members of your healthcare team will work with you to create a plan that supports your recovery and the overall treatment for your primary cancer.
How to Find Your Surgeon
When you’re looking for a surgeon to perform your secondary brain tumor surgery, it can be helpful to follow the “three Rs” – research, reviews and referrals.
Do Your Research
Online resources and other sources of information make it possible to learn a great deal about a prospective doctor very quickly. If you have the names of doctors you’re considering, do a general search for those names. You’ll likely be able to find detailed profiles along with pertinent qualifications, education and hospital and research affiliations.
Further searching can reveal details about the hospitals and facilities where a doctor performs surgeries. These can include specifics about size, location and specialties, as well as issues such as rate of complications in procedures similar to yours.
Before starting your research, take time to consider what qualities and qualifications are most important to you, such as how many years of experience the doctor has in performing this kind of surgery or whether the surgeon has done innovative research work in related areas. Other considerations that might affect your decision could include the doctor’s professional affiliations or the facilities where surgeries are performed.
Read Relevant Reviews
Most hospital and clinic websites offer opportunities for users to review and rate services, staff and facilities. General discussion boards and forums for people with conditions similar to yours can also offer some insights about experiences with a surgical procedure, a specific surgeon or a hospital. Look for comments that are relatively recent and ones that include details and reasons for a positive or negative review.
Get Recommendations and Referrals
Your primary care physician or oncology specialist may have provided you with a referral to a doctor qualified to perform your secondary brain tumor surgery. If not, ask for a list of possibilities. Talk to other healthcare professionals on your care team, too. Family and friends may also be able to offer recommendations and referrals based on their own personal experiences and those of people they know. Research these names for additional information.
Questions to Ask Your Surgeon
When you’re ready to meet with a prospective doctor, make a list of the questions you want to ask and concerns you may have. These could include:
- How many times has the doctor performed secondary brain tumor surgery?
- Is the surgery complicated?
- What can you expect before, during and after the procedure?
- What kind of follow-up care is provided once you leave the hospital?
- Is the hospital equipped to handle this kind of procedure?
- What kind of support staff is available, and what are their qualifications?
- Does insurance cover the surgery and hospital stay?
Qualities to Consider
Though a surgeon’s expertise is certainly high on the list of things to consider, other qualities are also important. Note whether the doctor answers your questions honestly and respects your concerns. Do you feel comfortable with the doctor – and is this person someone you feel you can trust? If a prospective surgeon isn’t willing to talk openly with you and work with your individual circumstances, you may want to look further.
Consider, too, whether your prospective doctor is willing to discuss not only surgery, but all available treatment options with you. The doctor should be able to make an unbiased recommendation for treatment that’s in your best interest – whether or not that treatment falls within the doctor’s own specialization.
If a prospective doctor isn’t willing to talk openly with you and work with you to find the treatment that offers you the most benefit, you may want to look further.
Skilled, compassionate surgeons can practice in many places, and the best treatment isn’t necessarily found only in city settings. Your search for a doctor to perform your secondary brain tumor surgery might lead to unexpected destinations. But doing some research and asking the questions that matter can help you find the right doctor for your procedure – and for your recovery.