I’ve just found this gripping article from The Guardian by photojournalist Tom Bible who was diagnosed with a rare and life threatening brain tumour and had an equally rare and life threatening operation to remove it.
The tumour was located in the superior sagittal sinus, one of the major veins that drains blood from the brain.
Operating on it is very dangerous because it is incredibly difficult to stem the bleeding once it’s damaged. As the author mentions in this passage, it’s so dangerous that the operation needs to be carried out while the patient’s heart is stopped:
I now had a challenge: to find a neurosurgeon who was both willing and able to remove my tumour. Dr Thomas recommended two vascular neurosurgeons in the UK. I arranged an appointment with the first one, who subsequently cancelled, saying that it was not the type of operation he would perform. I visited the second neurosurgeon at the National Hospital in London – the leading UK neurosurgery hospital (and one of the most highly rated in the world). He said he had only heard of one of these before. They had had to remove it by resorting to a practice called the ‘cardiac standstill’. In this, they stop the patient’s heart, drain the blood from the body and reconstruct the tumour-infested sinus area, pump the blood back into the body and kick-start the heart again.
The author eventually had the operation in the US, and gives a compelling description of the process from first symptoms to the extended procedure that eventually also needs the radiation-based gamma knife treatment.
Link to Guardian article ‘Brain storm’.