Brain tumour surgery: improving survival rates

Written by: Dr Jeremy Rees
Published: | Updated: 01/09/2020
Edited by: Robert Smith

Dr Jeremy Rees is a leading neurologist in London who treats neurological problems, brain tumours and other cancers.

brain model

We spoke to Dr Rees recently to learn how dangerous gliomas are - a type of tumour that can develop in the glial cells of the spine or brain. We found out how successful brain tumour surgery is and how the results of surgery have improved significantly over the years.

Does brain tumour surgery dramatically improve survival rates?

A shift in surgical practice over last decade towards the earlier removal of slow-growing but ultimately fatal brain tumours, has led to dramatic improvements in survival and seizure control or patients, according to a recent study published by Dr Rees and colleagues from the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery and UCL Institute of Neurology.

On average patients with low-grade gliomas (LCGs) had 50% chance of dying with 10 years of diagnosis in 2006, fast forward to 2017 and there was just a 4% chance according to an analysis of patient records.

What is the success rate of brain surgery when it comes to seizure control?

The number of patients who did not experience a seizure for 1 year or more after brain surgery went up from 22% in 2006 to 42% in 2017. These patients were eligible to drive again under DVLA rules, helping to boost their independence.

How popular is tumour removal surgery?

In 2017, three times as many patients were undergoing surgery to remove their tumour when compared with 2006. This was because brain surgeons were prepared to operate on more tumours due to advances in scanning and awake surgery.

The improvements we have seen in survival and seizure control have been staggering. It appears that the change in approach when it come to operating earlier has led to a step change in how long patients can expect to live.

How dangerous are gliomas?

Low-grade gliomas (grades I and II) make up around 30% of all gliomas, which are the most common type of primary brain tumour. They usually progress to higher grades (III and IV) which ultimately lead to death.

What is the exact survival rate for patients with low-grade gliomas?

LGGs have an average survival ranging from 5 to 15 years, depending on age and type of tumour. Surgeons traditionally favoured an approach of 'watchful waiting' until the tumour grew - due in part to the risks inherent in surgery. But in the last decade, teams have taken a much more proactive approach to surgery due to better understanding of the risks of watchful waiting and the improvements in surgical imaging and technique. Currently, about 60% of patients with LGG are now offered surgery within a year of diagnosis.

For more information on brain tumour surgery, you may like to book an appointment with a leading neurologist such Dr Jeremy Rees . Visit his Top Doctors profile today.

By Dr Jeremy Rees

Dr Jeremy Rees is a leading neurologist in London who is trained to look after patients with brain tumours and cancer. He is referred patients who have neurological problems due to brain tumours or other cancers from across the country and abroad. Dr Rees also specialises in treating epilepsy, headache, migraine, Parkinson’s disease and neuropathy (nerve damage).

Dr Rees qualified from University College and Middlesex Medical School with distinctions in medicine, surgery and therapeutics in 1988. After his general professional training in various postgraduate London teaching hospitals, Dr Rees was awarded a prestigious MRC clinical training fellowship at Guy’s Hospital where he completed his PhD in 1985.

He then underwent his neurology training at the Royal Free Hospital, National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, St Thomas’ Hospital and neuro-oncology training at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre in New York.

Dr Rees has extensive teaching experience with both medical students and qualified doctors and organises an annual teaching course for professionals on brain tumours. He lectures at neurology conferences both nationally and internationally and has published extensively in scientific and medical journals. He has contributed chapters in textbooks on brain tumours and neurological complications of cancer.

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