July 2, 2022

The use of Gamma Knife surgery to treat otherwise incurable brain tumours has been a life-saver for many thousands of patients – and it has been around for longer than many imagine.

For example, over the border in the Czech Republic the technique of using gamma knife surgery has been going on for 30 years, Radio Prague International reports.

The first one used in the country was funded by a nationwide fundraising campaign, focused on the case of a 12-year-old boy called Misa, who had already suffered brain damage through one haemorrhage and was at risk of another without a gamma procedure.

The Gamma Knife used on Misa was subsequently modernised twice and then replaced with a more modern version in 2009, but the benefits of gamma knife radiosurgery have been felt by some 24,000 patients. Misa himself died in 2018, but this meant his life had been extended by nearly 30 years.

For a country with a poor economy that had only just left behind decades of Communism to have raised CZK 160 million Crowns via public subscription was a huge effort. The good news here in neighbouring Austria is that the same procedure is available in Vienna, with the prospect of saving thousands of lives and extending others.

According to one new report about the market for the procedure, central Europe will be one of the places where it is used most in the 2020s.

The study by Future Market Insights titled ’Gamma Knife Market: Global Industry Analysis and Opportunity Assessment 2015-2025’ predicted that between 2021 and 2031 Germany alone would account for a fifth of procedures in Europe.

It also said the worldwide market for the procedure would see compound annual growth of 5.9 per cent, with the global value of the market rising from US$287.3 million to US$507 million.

Ultimately, however, it is not all about money, whether it is the funds raised by the Czechs 30 years ago or the future value of the market. It is about saving the lives of people with brain tumours and other otherwise inoperable conditions and giving them many more years of life.

July 19, 2022

Radiotherapy and radiosurgery and primarily used in a highly targeted way to help remove malignant tumours and other cancerous cells before they can spread and cause considerable harm.

In particular, the precise nature of Gamma Knife radiosurgery allows for the treatment of brain tumours and complex neurological conditions such as trigeminal neuralgia.

However, whilst it is primarily used for the eradication of tumours, radiosurgery techniques can also be used to assist with pain relief for certain types of cancer that are untreatable or have become untreatable.

This is known as palliative radiation therapy and is primarily used for managing the debilitating pain that some people suffering from bone cancer can feel, although it can be used to manage the pain of skin cancer and other forms as well.

To explain how radiotherapy helps with pain relief, we need to understand why cancer cells can cause pain to begin with.

Tumours, lesions and growths associated with cancer can grow, and as they grow they can start to press against nerves, organs and bones. This pressure can feel painful and is compounded by the pain caused by tumours destroying healthy tissue surrounding them.

In the case of bone cancer, this is compounded by bone cells being weakened, increasing the chance of painful breaks.

Radiotherapy kills cancer cells and shrinks tumours, which can help ease the pressure on parts of the body the cancer is affecting, and increase the viability of surgery to remove tumours, even if not every growth can be operated on.

Whilst in some cases radiotherapy takes the form of radiation drugs that are injected into a target area, the main form of radiotherapy is external, which uses a machine such as a gamma knife to aim beams of radiation to target cancer cells.

After the course of treatment, it can take a few weeks, but the majority of people who have had palliative radiotherapy have claimed it has reduced or removed pain caused by the cancerous cells.

June 15, 2022

June 8th was World Brain Tumour Day, an event established to raise awareness of brain tumours, dispel misunderstandings, help people spot the signs that indicate they need to seek a scan and highlight the array of treatments that are available.

For this reason, a plethora of articles has been published on the topic to increase understanding and help generate better health outcomes, not least among those who might not otherwise have spotted early signs that something is amiss.

Indian news provider the Economic Times, for example, published a series of tips on what to look out for, with these ranging from milder and less unusual symptoms like headaches to more specific problems like seizures, changes in personality, clumsiness and cognitive impairment.

In the past, developing a brain tumour would normally have been a death sentence. But that is anything but the case now. For one thing, many tumours are benign and non-cancerous; treatments for them will prevent excess pressure building on the brain, which will then ensure they are no longer dangerous.

Cancerous tumours are another matter, of course. They can be the result of specific brain cancer, or another form of cancer spreading across the body including the brain. Either will be deadly unless successfully treated and often once it is very advanced there is often little or nothing that can be done, as is so often the case with cancer. That’s why early diagnosis matters.

As Healthshot notes, the good news is that if a cancerous tumour is detected, the chances of survival are now far greater than they used to be. It stated: “The days of mutilating and incapacitating surgeries are long gone, and modern neurosurgery is really rather safe and successful,” adding that Gamma Knife Surgery is now a key tool in the “modern day” arsenal available to neurosurgeons.

It added: “The post-surgery outcomes have also been revolutionised by radiosurgery. The mortality and morbidity rates have decreased significantly, and we now add life to years rather than just years to life.”

Knowing this can make a crucial difference in more ways than one. The most obvious is that gamma knife treatment offers the hope of a life-changing operation that leaves no scars, no rehabilitation period and potentially a complete recovery.

Secondly, there is the behavioural implication of this. Fir some who might suspect there is a problem, there will be a reluctance to get checked out for fear of what the diagnosis might be. This fear is bound to be greater for any condition that is either incurable or for which the treatment can be arduous and traumatic.

Therefore, knowing that a treatment can be both effective and not come with a lot of side-effects and pain may help some people go forward and get themselves examined if they start to show possible symptoms.

With the medical world both knowing more than ever about brain tumours and the treatments available being more effective and now non-invasive, there is far more hope for patients than there ever was – something that warrants lots of awareness on the other 364 days of the year too.