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A new study confirms – an early removal of slow-growing brain tumours is the way to go

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Posted November 25, 2019

Low-grade glioma is a slow-growing brain tumour. Although it develops very slowly, it is still deadly. Worse still, it drastically limits people’s independence and quality of life, because it causes seizures. But advancements in medicine and new treatment practices drastically improved the prognosis for people with the low-grade glioma.

A low-grade glioma is a slow-growing brain tumour, which causes seizure and reduces life expectancy. Image credit: Nevit Dilmen via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Back in 2006 people heard that there is a 50 % chance that they will die within 10 years if they had a low-grade glioma. Nowadays those odds were reduced to 4 %, which is a tremendous achievement. 22 % of the patients were seizure-free at least for a year after the brain surgery back in 2006, but now that number grew to 42 %. Many of these people can keep their driving licence and participate in traffic without any issue. And what changed in that last decade? Well, in 2017 three times as many patients are having brain surgeries early after diagnosis of a low-grade glioma than back in 2006, as this new study from UCL has found.

Because low-grade glioma is a slow-growing cancer and brain surgery is always associated with quite a bit of risk, health professionals and patients opted for waiting a bit before getting the surgery done. However, even the low-grade glioma is a big threat to patient’s health, causes seizures, pain and, as we know now, significantly reduces chances of survival. Surgery techniques improved as well and now we have safe surgery methods that do not pose too much risk for the patient. And these improvements are just because doctors took a more pro-active approach.

Now majority of low-grade glioma patients are offered surgeries within a year of diagnosis. And so the rates of intractable epilepsy – where treatment fails to control a patient’s epilepsy – fell from 57% to 32%. While back in 2006 only 81 % of patients survived for 5 years, in 2017 this number grew to 100 %. Meanwhile the 10 year survival increased from 51.7% in 2006 to 95.8% in 2017. These are all significant improvements. Scientists figured this out by analysing records of 74 patients in 2017 and comparing their health stories with 79 patients in the same clinic in 2006.

Dr Jeremy Rees, lead author of the study, said: “The improvements we saw in survival and seizure control were staggering. It appears that this change in approach – to operate earlier – has led to a step change in how long patients can expect to live”.

Brain tumour still is and will always be a horrifying diagnosis to hear. However, with improvements in medicine and surgical techniques we can expect things to get better and better. Just the concept of having a brain surgery is less terrifying now, because more and more patients survive these procedures without any issues whatsoever. And that’s just in one decade – can you imagine what kind of a progress we are going to see within the next ten years?

 

Source: UCL

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