Friday, April 10, 2009

What is Cyber Knife?

Cyber Knife is a robotic radiosurgery system utilized for treatment of both cancerous and non-cancerous tumors throughout the body. It is extremely accurate and able to pinpoint the exact location of the targeted tumor with the assistance of MRIs and a technician's guidance. My neurologist, Dr. Duma, performs neurosurgery, Gamma Knife, Proton Beam, and Cyber Knife personally. I know when he chooses a treatment for me he is making the best choice for my individual needs and is not limited to specific types of surgery. A typical Cyber Knife treatment starts with a foam molding of your body being made. You are given an MRI in that mold, and the doctors use that information to form a treatment plan. Once the doctors are ready to begin you settle into the mold which is actually quite comfy. According to the Cyber Knife website, treatment lasts between 30 and 90 minutes depending on tumor size and location. During treatment the robotic arm rotates all around the patient, painlessly zapping the target with an invisible beam of radiation. Sometimes treatment is done over a period of several days, spreading out the amount of radiation delivered to the tumor in order to spare the healthy cells surrounding the area from radiation damage.

I have had Cyber Knife one time with Dr. Adler at Stanford who is actually the creator of the Cyber Knife. My treatment lasted one day, and my only side effects were a bit of fatigue and nausea for 1 week. The tumor was located in my upper C spine and visibly stopped growing at my 6 month follow-up MRI. This time I will be treated in Vista by my own neurologist, Dr. Duma. He insists there are no ill side effects, and that my prior experience of fatigue and nausea were due to the stress and anxiety surrounding the process. The Cyber Knife website states that patients may experience minimal side effects for the first week or two. I am opting to believe I will feel perfectly fine, but do not think I am so weak as to have created my symptoms as a stress response the first time around. Regardless, the possibility of being a bit tired for a week is nothing compared to the fears I would be facing if I was having regular invasive surgery. It amazes me that just 15 years ago my Mom had no options, and today I may have 3 tumors treated in a day, 2 of which are only being treated "just because we may as well while we are there!" Without radiosurgery I would have had at least 3 or 4 brain surgeries by now, and am not sure my body would have even been able to handle that. If Dr. Duma decides to radiate all 3 of my spine tumors, I will not have a single active tumor in my body!

I feel so blessed and grateful to have these treatment options available to me and to be under such great care. I only wish all people with NF2 were able to recieve such a high level of patient care, and pray for the day in which we truly have universal health care.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

From what I understand, cyberknife has little side effects for spinal tumors but many side effects happen when VS tumor are treated in NF2 patients. Because I was led to believe it would be "easy" by the countless AN patients and those with other tumors/disorders, I expected it to be a cake walk which it was not. And no, my results of vertigo, nausea, vision complications, and later facial paralysis and loss of vestibular function were not due to nervousness or anxiety! I wish that was all it was!

To be completely honest, I was so stunned by what happened (we are not talking about deafness as a difficult side effect), that I am terrified to do it again for any tumor near the brainstem. The treatment has not worked for everyone with NF2.

I wish you luck with your decision. A recent appointment with the radiation oncologist of the cyberknife center here said that my spinal tumors would not be any trouble to cyberknife if they caused a problem. They are small and on the lining of the spinal cord and not within it.

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