- Gamma Knife Radiosurgery

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Although itís called Gamma Knife, there is no knife, blade, or blood involved. Gamma Knife is an outpatient proceedure that delivers a focused dose of gamma radiation precisely to its target by aiming high-energy rays at the tumor from many angles. There is much less risk than with traditional brain surgery since it does not damage the surrounding brain tissue and only one session is needed. Because it is non-invasive, there is no risk of infections or bleeding, and no need for general anesthesia. Around half a million people have been treated with Gamma Knife surgery, and it has an 85%-90% success rate (kills/shrinks brain tumor or stops the growth).

In Gamma Knife treatment, the patient wears a special stereotactic head frame. It is attached to your head with four small screws, ensuring that the beams of radiation are precisely targeted, and it also prevents your head from moving during the Gamma Knife procedure. If your head moves, the radiation may target the wrong area.

Once the head frame is in place, imaging tests (such as an MRI or CT scan) are pinpoint the exact location, size, and shape of the tumor. Your team of doctors (neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists and radiation physicists) then uses the results to develop a treatment plan.

Next you will lay on a treatment table, similar to the one used for for an MRI or CT scan, and you will remain fully awake for the proceedure. The Gamma Knife machine aims hundreds of tiny radiation beams at the tumor, and when these beams combine they damage the diseased tissue. Healthy tissue outside the tumor area is not harmed. The machine is completely silent and you can even take a nap if you want.

After an hour or less, the treatment will be complete, and you can usually go home right away. You may have a headache after they remove the headframe, and there may be some swelling, but that will soon go away. You will have some small pin-hole sites on your head, which they put Band-Aids on, and your scalp may get irritated or sensitive. Some people also experience some nausea and fatigue for a few days. Gamma Knife treatment is usually covered by health insurance.

Gamma Knife treatment does not instantly remove a brain tumor. Like any other radiation treatment, its goal is to stop the growth of the tumor so it disappears over the next few weeks or months. It causes the cells in the tumor to die, and when that happens they stop dividing and the tumor will hopefully shrink.

Gamma Knife radiosurgery is an especially good treatment option under the following circumstances:

  • A patient with an inoperable brain tumor
  • When the patient doesnít want invasive surgery
  • If the patient is not well enough for traditional brain surgery
  • A brain tumor is too close to critical structures (such as the optic nerve or brain stem) that could get damaged from surgery
  • A brain tumor located where itís too hard to reach by usual brain surgery
  • A patient with a metastatic brain tumor, who is already having their primary cancer treated with radiation or chemotherapy.
  • Somebody who has already had traditional brain surgery, but it didn't work.

Note: The information provided on this website was not written by a doctor or cancer specialist, so in all cases you should consult your own doctor about diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment.

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