When diagnosing and classifying a brain tumor, the physician assesses many factors, including the location, size, and aggressiveness of the tumor. These factors help the physician decide if the tumor is operable or inoperable.

What is an inoperable brain tumor?

Operable tumors are those that the surgeon feels confident can be removed completely or partially. Inoperable tumors are those located in an inaccessible place in the brain, or those that are composed of multiple tumors that cannot all be removed. Surgeons cannot always access every corner of the brain, and there may be some concern about damaging nearby tissues. There is not one type of brain tumor that is operable and another that is inoperable. Inoperable tumors can be of any type or size. The key issue is the location of the tumor(s) and whether or not the surgeon feels he or she can access it without damaging critical brain areas around it, such as those needed for speech, movement, and other essential functions of the body.

Another possible problem is vascularization. An inoperable brain tumor may be so entangled with blood vessels that it would be too dangerous to the life of the patient to try to remove the tumor. Finally, the state of the patient’s general health is also a concern. If the patient suffers additional illnesses, they may be in a weakened state that would make performing surgery to risky for the patient.

The surgeon may consider whether part of the tumor can be removed. However, the problem with removing only part of a tumor is that it is likely to recur because the remaining tissue multiplies. Thus it is best, when possible, to remove the entire tumor. It is important to note that a tumor that one surgeon believe is inoperable may seem treatable to another. You may wish to visit more than one surgeon before accepting the conclusion that the tumor is inoperable.

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