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Benign Astrocytoma
January 2001

Q. My friend has a benign astrocytoma and the doctor recommends a lobotomy. He tried radiation and the tumor grew. I have checked the information on lobotomy and could only find it in relation to mental illness. Could you please tell me how this would help him?

A. The idea of a brain tumor is a frightening one for anybody. In addition to the possibility of death, it raises the possibility of impairment of brain function and loss of one's independence. Brain tumors are relatively uncommon compared to many types of cancer, yet about 20,000 new cases occur each year in the U.S.. They tend to grow or metastasize within the brain and spinal cord rather than spreading to distant organ sites.

Even a benign brain tumor is quite serious, as size and location can interfere with vital brain function, though benign tumor tissue will not spread to distant locations. Treatment is usually with surgery to remove the tumor if it is accessible, or radiation is used to attempt to shrink the tumor as you have mentioned. Quiz your doctors on the reasons for proposing a lobotomy. Perhaps the tumor location is posing an extreme risk and a drastic surgical procedure is the only treatment option.

Here are some good reference sites for you.

http://www.abta.org/

http://www.tbts.org/

http://neurosurgery.mgh.harvard.edu/abta/

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