Mimi Murphy's Medical Breakthroughs: Focused Brain Surgery

Medical Breakthroughs
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Brain tumors can damage speech, memory or gait depending on where it is. When a patient goes in for surgery, the doctor has to carefully remove the tumor while avoiding those same areas of function. Now a new tool helps doctors see their target better.

For Chris and Tracy Schoettelkotte, 2002 was a year of highlights. Tracy graduated from law school. They were married.

"We went on our honeymoon. It was great," Tracy said.

Then she began to get severe headaches.

"I feel like December 24th, our life was basically perfect," Chris said.

On Christmas day, they went to the emergency room.

"An hour and a half later, they were coming down and telling us that I actually had a tumor," said Tracy.

Neurosurgeon Raymond Sawaya, M.D., said Tracy's brain tumor was two inches across.

"It is a tumor that originates from within the brain substance. So when this tumor grows, it is growing surrounded by brain tissue," said Dr. Sawana, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

His challenge was to remove the tumor without damaging other areas. He used this new tool called a SurgiScope. It combines medical images with images from a microscope.

"I want to be focused on this point and just to be able to tell that to the microscope, and the microscope, which is hanging on the ceiling, to be able to rotate and focus on that point," said Dr. Sawaya.

Patients recover more quickly and go home sooner than with standard surgery. Tracy's tumor was removed on New Year's Eve. Now her focus is not on cancer, but on their baby-to-be.

"It happened to me at this time and there's a reason. And we just go forward with it and that's what we do," she said.

Tracy will have her baby and then start chemotherapy. Dr. Sawaya says there are two keys with surgery when removing tumors -- removing the entire mass and avoid causing any damage.

If you would like more information, please contact:

The University of Texas
M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
Brain and Spine Center
1515 Holcombe Blvd., Unit 339
Houston, TX 77030
(713) 792-7728