Probably More Than You Want to Know about My Brain Tumor

Probably More Than You Want to Know about My Brain Tumor

About a week after I was admitted to the hospital in St. Louis, my medical team recommended a biopsy of my tumor. So they put me face down on a surgical table for a few hours, screwed my head into a halo to stabilize things for the surgery, and took a tiny bit of the tumor for pathology.

You might wonder why they’d go through all that trouble just to not remove the damn thing. I would. I did.

The sucky thing is that the tumor was (and still is) in a precarious spot. Trying to cut it out is risky not only because of where it is, but because it’s got these tendril-like doohickies with no clear delineation where the tumor stops and the brain begins.

So they just took a little bit of the tumor, and some pathologists gave it a good look see. I’ll never, ever forget the neurosurgeon describing the procedure to me the night before as he loomed over my hospital bed.

“Basically, we’re going to cut a flap open on the back of your head, pull your neck muscles out, set them aside, take a little bit of the tumor, put stuff back where it was, and sew you back up.

“Just sign here,” he said, handing me a clipboard and a pen.

They determined that it was indeed a Grade 2 Astrocytoma. And then they sent the tissue off for Foundation One genetic testing and determined that my tumor was an IDH-1 mutant. With that info, they knew I was a good candidate for chemotherapy.

Lucky me.

What follows is a few of the juicy bits from that brain tumor biopsy:

Service: Neurosurgery

Brain, “Brain stem tumor,” Open biopsy (Includes AFR1 and AFR1-TP1)
– Diffuse Astrocytoma, IDH-1 mutant, WHO Grade II (see comment)
nxs/2/14/2017 18:22

Intraoperative Consultation:
An intraoperative consultation was obtained and is interpreted as: Called to pick up “brain stem tumor frozen,” consisting of tan-white tissue fragments measuring 1.0 x 0.5 x 0.3 cm in aggregate. Sampled for frozen sections (AFR1) and for cytological smear preparation (AFR-TP1).

AFR1/AFR-TP1: Brain stem tumor frozen
– Diffuse glioma
Microscopic Description and Comment:
Hematoxylin and eosin stained sections of the brain stem tumor biopsy material show several small fragments of brain parenchyma involved by a diffuse glioma, showing also a few entrapped neurons and some reactive astrocytosis. Cellularity is moderate.
The neoplastic cells have relatively uniform, mildly atypical, round-to-oval nuclei with variably dense or coarse chromatin and occasional small nucleoli. Some have indistinct cytoplasm; others have perinuclear halos. Rare apoptotic bodies are noted.
Definitive mitotic figures are not appreciated. There is no evidence of microvascular proliferation, endothelial hyperplasia, intravascular thrombosis, or necrosis.
Immunohistochemistry (IHC; single antibody stain procedures) was performed on block A2 to allow for tumor classification. The tumor cells show strong diffuse cytoplasmic reactivity for IDH1 (p.R132H). ATRX expression is retained in tumor nuclei.
Reactivity for p53 stains only rare scattered tissue nuclei (<1%). IHC for K3 K27M is negative. Reactivity for proliferation marker Ki-67 (MIB-1 antibody) stains a regionally variable proportion of tissue nuclei, manually calculated in an area of estimated maximal density to be <2% (13 of 699).
Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) studies (G17-758; A2) show evidence of limited polysomy 19, but no evidence of 1p19q co-deletion.
The histomorphological, immunohistochemical, and cytogenetic findings from examination of the biopsy material support the diagnosis: Diffuse Astrocytoma, IDH1-mutant, WHO Grade II.
The patient is a 36-year-old woman with history of neck pain, headaches, numbness and  ingling in all four extremities, and difficulty walking. Magnetic resonance imaging on 02/04/2017 shows increased T2/FLAIR intensity, decreased T1 signal intensity, and diffuse expansion of the pons, medulla, and upper cervical spinal cord (extending down to the level of the C3 vertebral body), with internal patchy enhancement. Radiological impression: Most consistent with brainstem glioma.
Operative procedure: Suboccipital craniotomy and Stealth-guided Vertek open brain biopsy.
Specimen(s) Received:
A: Brain stem tumor
Gross Description:
Received is a formalin-filled container labeled “Suess, Emily A.” and “brain stem tumor frozen.” It holds a cassette (AFR1) that contains two pieces of tan-pink tissue, wrapped in tissue paper. Also within the container are 4 fragments of tan-white/tan-pink tissue measuring approximately 0.8 x 0.5 x 0.3 cm in aggregate. Wrapped. Labeled A2 and A3. Jar 0.

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