Treatment options for patients with brain cancer have remained relatively static over the past couple of decades, but Dr Brindha Shivalingam believes that we’re on the cusp of a shake-up that could change all of that.
“We’re just on the brink of a whole bunch of clinical trials coming on board. Up until now it has been slow, with just one or two here and there, but I think we’re about to see an explosion,” Dr Shivalingam says. “It’s long overdue and thankfully it is now happening.”
Appointed Director of Neurosurgery in November 2017, Brindha has high hopes for the newly formed department too. Last year, in its first full year of operation, her team performed 60 brain surgeries, some of those incredibly complex. This year, she wants to double that number, as well as expand the department from four to six dedicated surgeons.
“I’m also in the process of trying to arrange for a full time onsite neurosurgical registrar who will help boost our services, as well as a clinical care co-ordinator, who will assist with the ongoing, everyday caretaking of patients,” she says. It’s set to be a busy year ahead.
What sounds impossible to the rest of us, however, is right in Dr Shivalingam’s element. By her own admission, her personality is perfect for the job. “For as long as I can remember I have had a fascination for the complexity of the brain,” Brindha says. Neurosurgery is her passion.
A normal day for Dr Shivalingam is spread between clinics and operating. At least twice a week she consults with patients, talking to them about their diagnosis or following up after a procedure. Once a week she’s down in the theatres, performing life-saving surgery.
Both parts of her role are equally important, Brindha says. Operating on the brain, the very essence of who we are, is a terrifying prospect, and supporting patients through that journey is essential.
“As a brain surgeon, I go into the brain all the time and I’ve kind of become accustomed to that. But I remember when I first started as a junior doctor in neurosurgery, I thought to myself, how would I feel if someone said I needed brain surgery? The first thing that would come to mind is, am I going to be a different person after this? Everything about who we are is in the brain, and so changing that is a very scary concept.”
Thankfully, with years of training under her belt and exciting new developments on the way, Dr Shivalingam feels confident in reassuring her patients that brain cancer will not change who they are. Entering the brain, the most sacred site, is no longer the uncharted frontier it once was and with surgeons like Dr Shivalingam at the helm, the future looks even brighter.