Gamma Knife Treatment for Brain Tumor – Side Effects and Considerations

Gamma Knife Treatment for Brain Tumor – Side Effects and Considerations

Any illness with the brain involves a risky form of treatment and can incur undesirable consequences. Gamma Knife Surgery (GKS) has offered brain tumor patients a new ray of hope. This new form of brain tumor treatment has proven to be successful for many patients- but what are the risks and limitations patients need to consider? This article looks into the side effects and considerations that patients need to be aware of before deciding whether Gamma Knife treatment is right for them.

Are you a Suitable Candidate for Gamma Knife Treatment?

This new form of treatment has been known to be less invasive than traditional forms of brain tumor treatments such as surgery. However, many patients may not be suitable candidates for the Gamma Knife Surgery. Patients will need to fall within a certain age bracket, go through an examination and there are limitations depending on the stage of the brain tumor.

Though the method of Gamma Knife Surgery has eliminated most side effects and is considered relatively safe, there are still a few restrictions related to the size and type of tumor to be treated.

Gamma Knife Out of Pocket Costs

Another consideration patients will need to discuss is the cost of the Gamma Knife Surgery. It is quite costly compared to other treatments, partially because it is relatively new and because the equipment for it is very pricey.

For a hospital to carry Gamma Knife Surgery, it needs to treat at least 86 patients every month just to break even, which means it is not scalable to smaller facilities.

As a result, patients have to travel to an urban area or to a large, multi-specialty hospital. Now multi-specialty hospitals do always come with a heavy price-tag and so it does affect the cost of this treatment. Living arrangements as well as all fees related to medical procedures like brain scans and medications are all more expensive in a large, city hospital. However, if patients require this treatment, there is no other way.

While the patient may not have to visit many times, as in other procedures and treatments available for brain tumors, they do have to travel a few times for follow-ups on how the radiation is affecting the operated area. In most cases, the brain tumor slowly shrinks away from the lethal dose of cobalt radiation.


The patient must understand that this is after all a treatment and not a cure. The doctors that deliver Gamma Knife Surgery themselves say that there are limitations to the treatment. Gamma Knife Surgery can improve the quality of life however it cannot extend life. The tumor will still be in the brain, just at a reduced size, but not gone completely. While traditional surgical methods actually remove the tumor, Gamma Knife Surgery cannot remove it, it can only shrink the size of the tumor.

Gamma Knife Surgery is a relatively new treatment; therefore there are no long-term studies on its effects. While it has been approved, it has not been around long enough to study the long term effects of this treatment on the brain and the rest of the body yet. Short-term studies do look promising, but with radiation in the picture, the long-term studies are what matter more.

This treatment can serve many different types of tumors, however, any tumor above 25-30 mm in size or presenting evidence of brain stem compression cannot be treated by Gamma Knife Surgery. This limits the types of tumors that can be treated and the number of patients it can help.

Safety and Efficacy

Gamma Knife Surgery is a one-dose treatment, where a high, one-time dose is delivered to the target area and then the effects are studied. And while the advanced equipment ensures accuracy and precision in the target and dosage, there is a small possibility of this radiation hitting surrounding tissue as well as other areas. In the manner, there is a huge uncertainty. Every inch of the brain is responsible for so many functions unknown to science today, that hitting the wrong portion, or even the right portion could very well have adverse effects.

Moreover, it has also been observed, in rare cases, that this dose of gamma radiation gave rise to other tumors in the body. Exposure to mild radiation over time is what causes normal, healthy cells to become carcinogenic. While Gamma Knife Surgery ensures that radiation scatter is very little, and that it is accurately targeted to the problem area, the body still has to endure this amount of radiation. There is, therefore, a chance of developing more tumors elsewhere in the body.

Limited Access for Brain Tumor Patients Worldwide

Due to Gamma Knife Surgery’s precision, accuracy, and non-invasive procedure has gained trust from the medical field worldwide. It is recognized as an efficient treatment for brain tumors everywhere in the world. Due to the costs however, not all continents carry the equipment.

Europe, North America, and Australia are the leading choices to receive this therapy. While the treatment is approved and recognized as safe and efficient, due to insurance and payment option limitations, many patients are still being denied treatment. In the UK, there has been a very public battle for patients under NHS England insurance schemes being denied treatment. While they look into the cost effectiveness of the treatment, machines have been laying idle, ready to deliver treatment to suffering patients.

Speaking with your health professional or doctor is key to getting proper information about Gamma Knife Surgery. If you are considering Gamma Knife Surgery for your brain tumor treatment, please be informed with the latest information provided by Gamma Knife Surgery hospitals as well as your health professional.


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