World Brain Tumour Day 2020: Recovery after brain surgery

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There has been an increase in the incidence of brain tumour in India. About 50,000 new cases are reported, out of which 20% are in children with medulloblastoma being the most commonly occurring type. However, more accurate diagnosis, improved testing technology and greater awareness in the urban population point towards higher detection rates. There are different types of brain tumours, which affect people across all age groups. They are uncommon, accounting for approximately less than 2% of all cancers globally.

Primary brain tumours originate in the brain, the blood vessels, cranial nerves, meninges, pineal gland, or the pituitary gland. They can be benign or cancerous and are classified and named depending on the type of cells involved. While benign tumours may not pose any risk to life, it may be a challenge to treat the cancerous ones with surgery followed by radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy being the usual line of treatment. Some of the general warning signs of brain tumours include unusual headaches that increase in frequency; feeling pressure or pain in a particular area of the head; nausea and vomiting; sudden onset of problem with speech, vision or hearing; difficulty in concentration; motor seizures or convulsions; loss of coordination and balance; and sleep disturbance.

Since early detection makes treatment and surgery more effective, and presents better outcomes, it is important to understand and identify early symptoms of brain tumours. For those who have undergone a surgery, there are certain do’s and don’ts that must be followed. Here is a lowdown on some of these.

At the outset, it is imperative to understand that the time required for recovery depends on factors such as the procedure, location and areas of brain affected, and the patient’s overall health and age. Often, the surgery may cause problems with thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. For this, there are rehabilitation specialists (physical, occupational, and speech language pathologists) who aid the process of recovery.

•Follow all the instructions given by the doctor. This will not only ensure that you are comfortable and safe but also that the recovery process is faster.

•Attend all follow-up visits with the doctor since this will enable in monitoring the recovery process and detect any regrowth of tumor in a timely manner.

•Make sure you do not stop medications or take any new ones without consultation. Keep checking with the specialist in case you have any doubts and adjust the dosage and schedule accordingly.

•Remember that all activity restrictions and other instructions are given only for your safety. Be patient with the recovery process.

•Make sure to eat healthy food and drink water to stay hydrated. A balanced diet rich in key nutrients such as Protein, omega 3, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin C, iron, zinc, magnesium, and potassium is important. Include a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Aim to eat nutritious snack in between main meals for energy. Avoid salty snacks, sugary juices, coffee, tea, alcohol, and processed foods which can add empty calories and slow down healing.

•Talk to someone you feel comfortable with in case you experience anxiety and stress. This will ensure you have an outlet to express your feelings and avoid stress.

Diagnosis of a brain tumor and the subsequent surgery and recovery may be taxing. Approach the therapy and recovery with a positive attitude. It is important to remember that recovery may take a little time and staying positive will eliminate stress and enable faster healing.

Dr Vishal Sehgal is Medical Director, Portea Medical

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