Andrea was an undergraduate student at Manhattan College in New York City with plans to pursue medical school. While hanging out with friends, a freak accident landed her in an emergency room where she had a CAT scan of her head. The scan showed that Andrea had a deep-seated brain tumor and she was referred to a neurosurgeon for further evaluation.
With her family more than 1,000 miles away, Andrea soon felt overwhelmed with doctor appointments and treatment information.
Alone and afraid, she asked her neurosurgeon in New York whether there was a suitable place to receive treatment back home in Florida where she would have the support of her family. He referred her to expert neurosurgical oncologist, Dr. Michael Vogelbaum, Program Leader of Neuro-Oncology and Chief of Neurosurgery at Moffitt Cancer Center.
Back in Florida, Andrea and her parents met with Dr. Vogelbaum to learn more about her tumor and its prognosis. Since her tumor had grown between the first MRI and the most recent one, Dr. Vogelbaum expressed concern about the visual symptoms that Andrea was experiencing.
He also suspected that her tumor was a type of rare and benign tumor that typically grows in one of the fluid spaces of the brain. Dr. Vogelbaum informed Andrea that she would need surgery and ordered a functional MRI to plan the best approach to her tumor, as it was deep in the brain and he wanted to find the safest path to it.
"He thoroughly explained the condition and treatment option to us," said Andrea. "We felt very comfortable that we were in good hands."
While the type of tumor that Andrea appeared to have was likely benign, it was growing and threatening to block an important fluid passage in the brain, which was why she was having visual symptoms.
"Given the deep location in the brain with areas at the brain surface that were functionally important, we had to carefully tailor the approach we would take to remove her tumor," said Dr. Vogelbaum.
On Oct. 12, 2022, Dr. Vogelbaum performed a minimally invasive craniotomy to remove the tumor from her brain. The procedure involved the use of two specialized technologies: a tubular brain retractor and a surgical exoscope (Olympus Orbeye). The tubular brain retractor is an optically-clear device that displaces brain tissue rather than damaging it to obtain access to deep structures within the brain. It has a small diameter, about one-half inch, but it is large enough to accommodate the surgical instruments that are used to remove a tumor.
The Orbeye digital exoscope is a type of surgical microscope that projects a 3D image to large monitors in the operating room and allows for heads-up visualization of the surgical field. Everyone in the operating room can see what the surgeon is doing, which makes for a more efficient and effective surgical team.
Following the successful four-hour surgery, Andrea spent three days in the hospital for initial recovery and then went home with her family. During her hospital stay, Andrea remembered that Lloyd, a professional bass player from the Arts in Medicine program at Moffitt, came to serenade her with beautiful music.
It's only been a few weeks since the surgery and Andrea has so far recovered well. She learned that her tumor is benign, had the surgical staples removed and she is back to exercising and staying healthy. Andrea is enrolling in online classes, though she hopes to return to New York to finish college and then attend medical school in the future.
"The experience of being diagnosed with a brain tumor was scary, especially when you're so young," said Andrea. “But you can change the outcome by being positive and going on with life. And don’t let anything hold you back.”
You are welcome to request an appointment with a specialist at Moffitt Cancer Center by calling 1-888-663-3488 or completing a new patient registration form online. We offer compassionate care for all, connecting you with a caring expert within one day.