Laser brain surgery

Reported September 29, 2010

Knocking Out Tumors in 30 Minutes


ATLANTA, GA (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- A powerful treatment typically used for brain cancer is now taking aim at the spine. Instead of using a scalpel to remove painful and debilitating tumors, surgeons are using a single beam of radiation.

Contractor Nesbit Jenkins has spent most of his 79 years on construction sites. He never wore a hat until recently when doctors found a melanoma on his head, the first of many.

"The first melanoma was a spindle cell melanoma. It was on the back of my head, where you see the hair missing, and it was stage three," Jenkins told Ivanhoe.

Four months ago, the cancer spread to his spine.  Instead of the traditional open surgery or months of radiation, he had a new procedure called spinal radiosurgery.

"A radiation oncologist is using the laser beam of the radiation treatment to mimic what a surgeon would do if they were doing surgery with a scalpel, so I often call radiosurgery the scalpel without the steel," Cynthia Anderson, M.D., Professor of Radiology at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, GA.

Patients need one 15 to 30 minute outpatient treatment. Surgeons hit the tumor with a highly concentrated, strong dose of radiation but spare vital structures around it.

Early studies show radiosurgery is effective against spinal tumors, and the pain that comes with them.

"Patients actually respond very well with their pain, and there’s actually very good tumor control with spinal radiosurgery of the tumor," Costas Hadjipanayis, M.D., Neurosurgeon at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, GA.

Days after successful surgery, Jenkins is back on the jobsite, pain-free, working hard to make sure his cancer doesn't take over his life.

"Going to keep fighting. Never going to give up," Jenkins stated.

Spinal tumors often are the result of cancers that spread from other parts of the body. Radiosurgery is currently used to treat brain, lung and liver tumors. 

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