When a patient is diagnosed with a brain tumour, immediate treatment is required. Gamma knife surgery is a new and advanced form of therapy that has been proven to help many patients suffering from a brain tumour. Typically, surgery of the brain is generally the first recommendation health professionals would suggest as the first and main course of brain tumour treatment. This depends on the health and age of the patient, location of the brain tumour and the stage of brain cancer.
However, surgery includes cutting into the brain, has less accurate visibility of the tumour, and many times cannot be performed on tumours that are labelled inoperable due to location, size and other factors. With traditional forms of surgery there is more of a chance of harming the healthy tissue around the tumour, causing a lot of stress to the patient. Surgery also includes extensive post op care and hospitalization, driving up the cost significantly for both the hospital and patient.
Other avenues of treatment that are recommended are radiotherapy and chemotherapy but neither are accurately targeted. Chemotherapy targets fast-growing cells in the entire body, even non-cancerous; whereas radiotherapy has higher chances of damaging healthy tissue surrounding the tumour/ lesion. Both of these therapies also mean a whole variety of drugs to take after the procedure to control the side effects. These treatments are long, and mean repeated dosing and trips to the hospital including hospitalization due to the side effects.
Among radiotherapies there are Cyberknife, Proton beam therapy, and Gamma knife. While all of these therapies have their advantages and disadvantages, it is the team of doctors that decide which method should be employed on the patient. Each patient is different and thus all plans are customarily drawn when these three therapies are being considered.
What is Gamma Knife Surgery (GKS)?
The concept behind stereotactic biopsy was developed in 1951 by Swedish scientists and then after years of perfecting the technology, in 2006, the perfect model used today Perfexion was developed by Elekta to perform Gamma Knife Surgery (GKS).
It is now a course of treatment for brain cancer patients at the Macquarie University Hospital in Australia. Gamma Knife surgery uses a total of 192 cobalt-60 beams to focus collaboratively on parts of the brain affected by tumours or lesions. Doctors affix the patient’s head using a headframe to ensure stability and precision movement by computerized robotics to deliver highly accurate doses of treatment to the tumours/ lesions.
By combining robotics with treatment, Gamma Knife surgery bypasses any damage to surrounding healthy tissue. The robotics allows for movement of the patient and the lasers in miniscule distances. Gamma Knife surgery not only treats brain cancers, but also other conditions like epilepsy, movement disorders, ad intractable pain.
What can be treated?
Gamma Knife surgery can treat arteriovenous malformations (AVMs), abnormal arteries and veins, acoustic neuromas, trigeminal neuralgia, and other brain tumours such as glioblastoma multiforme, ogliodendroglioma, astrocytomas, meningiomas, pituitary tumours, and skull base tumours.
The most common type of condition that can be treated using Gamma Knife surgery is the Cerebral metastases, which are brain tumours that are a result of being spread from other cancers like lung, kidney, or breast. Whether a patient can undergo Gamma Knife surgery or not is determined by a set of scans, tests, and a full diagnostic with patient history etc. This helps determine whether the patient’s body can handle the treatment and how much benefit the condition would get form Gamma Knife surgery.
Efficacy and benefits of Gamma Knife surgery
In about 90 percent of the trial cases, Gamma Knife surgery proved to effectively reduce tumour size and improve the patient’s quality of life significantly. Because it is a non-invasive procedure, there is also no post op care, reducing the costs of post op hospitalization, intensive care, ad drugs.
In addition, it also reduces emotional, mental, and physical stress for the patient and their families. The procedure itself takes no more than a few hours and does not require any overnight hospitalization or in-patient care.
Results of Using Gamma Knife Surgery for Brain Tumour Treatment
In recent case studies and research, patients have immediately notice a significant positive increase in the quality of their life. Because the brain is a complex organ, a tumour, depending on where it is, can affect anything from sight, smell, hearing, motor functions to just about anything.
With basic bodily functions breaking down, lifestyles change a lot causing the patient to become dependent. However, Gamma Knife surgery have had positive results in patients within 2 weeks of treatment. Patients are able to go back to their normal lives and even consider going back to work and driving etc. The sense of normalcy and belonging that patients feel after undergoing Gamma Knife surgery makes this a attractive option for brain cancer patients.
Before deciding whether or not Gamma Knife surgery is the ideal option for you, please consult your health professional for more information on whether you would be a suitable candidate for this form of treatment. Researching further on Gamma Knife surgery both the benefits and risks involved is important.
Cost of Gamma Knife Surgery and Financial assistance options
Financial cost of Gamma Knife surgery can be expensive particularly in Australia where Gamma Knife surgery is only available at the Macquarie University Hospital. Patients who are located elsewhere may find it difficult financially to cover costs such as treatment, accommodation, transport and airfare.
Patients should seek financial assistance from non-profits, grants, insurance plans and the Australian government where possible. One example is the Monique and Doug Thompson Gamma Knife Fund, that specifically provides financial assistance for patients for Gamma Knife surgery.
1) Gamma knife surgery: http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/15106340
2) First patient to receive Gamma Knife treatment in Australia: http://www.adventpc.com.au/press/first-patient-to-receive-gamma-knife-treatment-in-australia
3) Facts & Stats: https://www.curebraincancer.org.au/page/8/facts-stats
5) First patient to receive Gamma Knife treatment in Australia: http://www.adventpc.com.au/press/first-patient-to-receive-gamma-knife-treatment-in-australia
6) Conditions We Treat: http://www.muh.org.au/ServicesSpecialties/GammaKnife/ForPatients/ConditionsWeTreat.aspx
7) Treatment: https://www.curebraincancer.org.au/page/9/treatment