Gamma Knife Surgery Best Choice
Gamma Knife Surgery
Gamma Knife surgery is the best choice for cancer patients
As patient Keith Hinton lists the places in his body that have been treated for cancer, the recitation quickly requires more than one hand to keep count. His renal (kidney) cancer initially was diagnosed and treated five years ago, but by the time it was diagnosed, the cancer had metastasized, spreading to different locations in his body. He had multiple treatments for cancer on his lungs, adrenal gland, hip, shoulder and remaining kidney.
Like approximately one-third of all cancer patients, 49-year-old Hinton also developed metastatic cancer in his brain. Faced with a choice between flooding the entire brain with radiation or pinpoint radiation treatment of the two small brain tumors with surgical precision, he quickly chose the latter -- Gamma Knife surgery.
"Gamma Knife has redefined neurosurgery for many patients," explains New Orleans Neurosurgeon Robert Applebaum. "It is basically surgery without the incision - which means no pain, no anesthesia and no prolonged recovery time."
"With Gamma Knife radiosurgery, we are able to pinpoint a lesion and beam a high dose of radiation to that area only, even to some areas of the brain previously believed inoperable," Applebaum continues. "The surrounding tissues are unaffected. Gamma Knife offers real hope to brain tumor patients in a completely non-invasive procedure."
Leksell Gamma Knife is the only radiosurgery device that is specifically cleared by the FDA for treating brain metastases.
Choosing Gamma Knife surgery
When the first cancers were diagnosed in his brain, Hinton's physicians presented him with two choices -- Gamma Knife surgery or whole brain radiation therapy.
"I was worried that if I had whole brain radiation therapy it would affect my quality of life," says Hinton. "I felt fortunate that the neurosurgeon I was working with in Hattiesburg (MS) had experience with Gamma Knife surgery and recommended it."
"With whole brain radiation therapy, you may lose your sense of balance and memory," adds his wife, Jackie Hinton. "It might not have been the Keith I know today."
Gamma Knife surgery offered two other inducements. First, the treatment would be completed in a matter of hours during a single session. Whole brain radiation therapy and other alternative treatments require multiple sessions over a period of days or weeks. Second, Gamma Knife surgery can be used again should a new tumor appear, unlike whole brain radiation therapy which can only be administered once due to the amount of radiation.
The ability to have multiple treatments turned out to be important for Hinton. After his first two brain tumors were successfully treated last summer (2006), another brain tumor was diagnosed and treated in July 2007.
Treated like family
Luckily, the New Orleans Regional Gamma Knife Center was just a few hours from their Beaumont, MS, home. There the couple met with Charles Jarreau, RN, BSN, the center's office manager, who explained the procedure and served as their liaison throughout the procedure and follow-up.
"Charles is fantastic," says Hinton. "He and the people there treat you like family." "They really went beyond their job duties and were so kind," echoes Jackie.
The accuracy of Gamma Knife surgery closely is tied to the use of a stereotactic frame, which attaches to a patient's head with four pins, and is present during the MRI scan, as well as, treatment. Hinton recalls the placement of the lightweight metal frame on his head prior to the procedure. "I wanted them to be accurate and that's what the frame is all about. Four little pins are nothing compared to missing the mark!"
Jackie laughs when she remembers the frame. "We called him Frankenstein," she says. Despite the seriousness of Keith's diagnosis, the couple laughs frequently. "Keeping our sense of humor is what has really helped us through this."
Fighting the odds
Today, Hinton is encouraged because he is being closely monitored and the cancers are being discovered when they are very small. "They gave me three years to live when they first diagnosed the cancer," he recalls. Now he treasures the time spent with his two sons, ages 13 and 21, and tends his garden.
"When they first tell you that you have cancer, it devastates your whole life," recalls Hinton. "I've been blessed because we've got good medical people on top of it."
At least 150,000 people in the U.S. will develop metastatic brain cancer in 2007, if the statistics are accurate, and that number could be much higher. The American Cancer Society puts the number of new U.S. cancer cases for 2007 at 1.4 million(1) and it's estimated that between 20 and 40 percent of all cancer patients will develop metastatic brain tumors.
During a Gamma Knife radiosurgery treatment, thousands of radiation beams converge with a level of accuracy of more than 0.5mm, about the thickness of a strand of hair, leaving nearby healthy tissue undamaged. Local control provided by radiosurgery for the management of metastatic tumors in any brain location exceeds an average of 85 percent.