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Gamma Knife Report


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Justin1970 was kind enough to ask about how things went, and I realized I hadn't shared any info. Then I realized I didn't have a lot to say, because I remember very little of it! That's because of the Xanax they gave me beforehand. 

I had the procedure on March 28. We reported to the center at 6:45 a.m. I think I was home by 11, but I don't really remember that, either.

Things I do remember: getting prepped. They had me change into the lovely hospital clothing, then sat me in a chair, where they put some lidocaine on the four spots where the frame got screwed on. (They don't screw it into your skull, just until the pins are touching the skull.) They get you set with an IV so they can inject the contrast for the MRIs. I took my Xanax, met the neurologist, saw the gamma knife doc in the hall, and...that's about what I remember. I have brief flashes: something being put on my head, being helped into a wheelchair, being helped from a machine and almost falling into the doctor (and hearing their comment about how out of it I was), asking for a blanket because I was cold; asking for a pillow for under my neck and being told the frame was holding my head in position and that's why I couldn't have a pillow. Then I was back in the room where I started. I know I got dressed because nobody let me leave naked, but I have no recollection of even doing that. 

Afterwards, the gamma knife radiologist told my husband it went beautifully, that it was a textbook case and they wish they'd videotaped it. 

Basically what happens is this: 

You have a very fine-tuned MRI-- even more precise that a regular one. My oncology radiologist said if we thought of the brain as a salami, a pre-gamma knife MRI took slices of the brain every .3 mm instead of the usual MRI slice of 2 to 4 mm. They locate the tumor and get precise information about it, and also see if there's anything else they should pay attention to-- sometimes very small tumors can't be seen in a regular MRI. They will treat everything they find, said the gamma knife doc. Then the gamma knife doc, the neurologist and the medical physicist make a plan for the treatment. Sometimes, depending on the complexity of the situation, the planning can take up to 90 minutes. I asked the g.k. doc what he thought planning my case would take and he said, "About 10 minutes." My tumor was small, about the size of a quarter, which is actually larger than they initially thought it was. 

Then the treatment happens. They adjust the machine so that it delivers 192 beams of radiation directly onto the tumor. From the page of my gamma knife center: "The 192 beams of radiation converge on a single point with an accuracy of within 0.3 millimeters – about the width of a human hair – destroying abnormal tissue without significantly affecting surrounding healthy tissue." 

Then they take off the frame and send you home. You might have headache at the sites where the pins went in, neck strain from being held in position, etc. But they suggested I take it easy for the rest of the day, then resume ordinary life the next day. (My brother-in-law had gamma knife and went on a 30 mile bike ride the next day, but he was a rather extreme guy....)

I had a headache the next day, and the pin sites were tender for about a week and a half. I thought my forehead might develop some really interesting bruises, but they didn't. (If people asked what happened to my forehead, I'd planned to say casually, "Oh, just a little brain surgery." I'm kinda sad that I couldn't.) I think I had so little swelling because as soon as I got home, my mother, a former nurse, slapped a cold pack on my forehead and kept it there (on and off) all afternoon. 

My oncologist said she's had patients go for as many as 10 gamma knife procedures.

All in all, as someone on this forum said, it was a breeze. I have an MRI follow-up with the gamma knife doc next month. I look forward to seeing the scans. 

It's really nice to have such a non-memorable treatment in this lung cancer journey.


Here's some more info:

Go here to read about the difference between gamma knife and cyber knife

Here's more details about gamma knife from the Cleveland Clinic. 

Really interested in geeking out? Here's a video that shows you how the machine at my center works.  

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Great report Karen.  Thanks for sharing it.  Funny how we take those "calming agents" and then we don't really know what happened.  I'm actually okay with that for somethings I've gone through.  So glad to hear that yours was "textbook".


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Hi Karen 

That's brilliant news I'm so glad your treatment went well and you were able to tolerate it, I hope for great results from it for you, I wish I had mine done in the US I didn't like it one bit lol, I had a follow up appointment with the team just to see how I was doing but don't have an MRI and CT scan scheduled until the end of june I thought that was a bit bit of a long way off but guess they know best, I wish you all the best and hope you continue to stay well and have great results 

Take care Justin x 

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