It is almost May and National Brain Cancer Awareness Month. A brain tumor is an abnormal growth of tissue in the brain or central spine that can disrupt proper brain function. Doctors refer to a tumor based on where the tumor cells originated, and whether they are cancerous (malignant or metastatic) or not (benign).
The least aggressive type of brain tumor is often called a benign brain tumor. Benign brain tumors originate from cells within or surrounding the brain, do not contain cancer cells, grow slowly, and typically have clear borders that do not spread into other tissue. Even though benign tumors rarely develop into metastatic (cancerous or spreading) tumors, they can be life-threatening because they can compress brain tissue and other structures inside the skull.
Malignant brain tumors contain cancer cells and often do not have clear borders. They are considered to be life threatening because they grow rapidly and invade surrounding brain tissue. Tumors that start in cells of the brain are called primary brain tumors. Primary brain tumors may spread to other parts of the brain or to the spine, but rarely to other organs. Metastatic or secondary brain tumors begin in another part of the body and then spread to the brain. Metastatic tumors are more common than primary brain tumors and are named by the location in which they begin.
Brain tumor symptoms can vary according to tumor type and location. Symptoms can include:
- Recurrent headaches
- Issues with vision and/or hearing
- Changes in personality
- Short-term memory loss
- Poor coordination
- Facial paralysis
- Difficulty speaking or comprehending
There are about 120 different types of brain tumors. They are generally named after the type of cell they developed from. Some of the most frequently diagnosed brain tumors are:
- Meningioma – tumor arising from the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord; this accounts for about 20% of brain tumors
- Acoustic Neuroma – tumor in the 8th cranial nerve arising from Schwann cells (insulating cells of the nervous system); this accounts for about 9% of all brain tumors
- Pituitary Adenomas – pituitary gland tumor; this accounts for about 8% of brain tumors
Brain tumors are often treated by the CyberKnife® Robotic Radiosurgery System at Austin CyberKnife. CyberKnife is a painless, non-invasive alternative to surgery for the treatment of both cancerous and non-cancerous tumors anywhere in the body. The treatment delivers beams of high dose radiation to tumors with extreme precision and features a device that controls the width of the radiation beams the machine delivers during treatment, allowing clinical experts to vary the beam size and treat a larger variety of tumors throughout the body. Dell Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas is the only care site in Central Texas with this radiation technology.
The CyberKnife System pinpoints the tumor’s exact location in real time using images taken during the treatment that reference the unique bony structures of a patient’s head while correcting for small head movements. High-dose radiation is delivered directly to the tumor, ablating the cells of the tumor while minimizing radiation exposure to critical areas in the brain and spine.
Numerous clinical studies have shown that CyberKnife is an effective treatment option for brain cancer and noncancerous brain tumors, while carrying an extremely low likelihood of negative side effects. CyberKnife’s ability to treat tumors and lesions at an extremely precise level makes it an alternative treatment to surgery and conventional radiation therapy for patients with complex tumors and for patients seeking non-invasive ways to treat their tumors or lesions.
There are numerous advantages of CyberKnife treatment, including:
- It’s noninvasive, meaning no incisions
- There is no anesthesia or hospitalization required
- It’s painless
- It’s completed in five or fewer outpatient treatment sessions
- There is little to no recovery time, allowing for an immediate return to daily activities
- There are minimal, if any, side effects
- Due to pinpoint precision of high-dose radiation delivery, there is minimal radiation exposure to healthy tissue surrounding a tumor
Broadening the awareness of CyberKnife as a treatment option for those with brain tumors who choose not to undergo surgery, or who are not good surgical candidates due to age, health, or other reasons, benefits that patient because it lets them know there is another treatment option, while keeping their current neurosurgeon, who they know and trust, involved in their case. Having radiation oncologists and neurosurgeons work together increases the expertise, quality, and safety of the care and treatment being given to the patient.
Austin CyberKnife is located on I-35 near the Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas. Call 512-324-8060 or go to austincyberknife.com for more details.
Sponsored by Austin Cyberknife. Opinions expressed by guests on this program are solely those of the guest(s) and are not endorsed by this television station.