DOTHAN, Ala. - New technology has made it's way to the Wiregrass and will now give treatment options to patients with inoperable brain tumors.
Dr. Steven Stokes, a Radiation Oncologist at Southeast Alabama Medical Center says “Previously when people developed cancer in their brain, they typically would die of the cancer in the brain, it would destroy the brain and take their life, now with this treatment we can prevent that from happening. Stereotactic Radio Surgery is actually not surgery at all, it's a special form of Radio Surgery that allows precisely focused, high dose x-ray beams to be delivered to a small, localized area of the brain.
According to Dr. Robert Buchanan, a Radiation Oncologist and Physicist at Southeast Alabama Medical Center, “we upgraded recently to the latest version of a treatment planning calculations software and this version that we're using now it integrates beautifully with the linear accelerator that's actually going to be delivering the treatment.”
Because the brain is such an important organ, doctors have to be extremely careful to avoid the critical structures of the brain. Stokes states that “the brain is a critical organ, we have to be extremely careful and avoid the critical structures of the brain. Stereotactic Radio Surgery allows us to do that. we're able to target the areas much more accurately, it allows us to avoid the critical areas of the brain that we not give significant radiation to it allows us to give much higher doses of radiation safely than we could previously.”
The actual treatment time for these techniques generally ranges from 15 minutes to about two hours. Generally you can return home the same day and most people feel able to resume to their usual activities within a day or two.
Before this technology was available, the options were a surgical procedure, a Craniotomy, having a neurosurgeon surgically remove the tumor, which in many cases was very risky. Stokes discusses a patient who had a scan approximately one year ago and says compared to a recent scan that was taken just a few weeks ago, the same area that the tumor once was is now perfectly normal. Stokes states that the patient is now in “remission now following a year after her Stereotactic Radio Surgery.”
According to Buchanan, “we have all the equipment in place for quite a while, we were waiting on the software to catch up, the software is now installed...we're ready to go.”