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Question: Are there any advanced radiation techniques to treat brain tumors?

One of the most advanced radiation techniques used for brain tumors is stereotactic brain radiosurgery (SRS), which has just been implemented at Mission Hope Cancer Center. The Cancer Center treated its first SRS patient in April. Stereotactic brain radiosurgery is a focused radiotherapy technique that is used to destroy certain types of brain tumors right where they lie, without requiring surgical removal. The treatment is administered by a neurosurgeon and radiation oncologist, who pool their expertise to select suitable patients and then target and deliver the treatment.

Equipment acquired from Varian™ and Qfix allows the Mission Hope TrueBeam® radiotherapy machine to be used to deliver this focused, high dose form of radiotherapy. Most treatment courses are completed in just one, two or three outpatient visits for the procedure, plus a couple of preparatory evaluation and imaging visits prior to first treatment. Anesthesia is generally not required, and for most patients, there are no side effects and no recovery period.

Critical innovations provided by the new Varian equipment include beam focusing devices that can plan and deliver radiation to a small spherical volume measuring as little as 4 millimeters (1/8th of an inch) diameter with near-laser-like intensity. Using graduated focusing “cones,” tumors up to about 1.7 centimeters (2/3rds of an inch) can be treated. Because the beam is so tightly focused, huge, tumor-destroying doses of radiation can be administered without significant risk to surrounding normal brain tissue.

Of course, this requires very tight aiming as well — the is no point having high-powered, precision rifle without having an equally precise way to aim it! This is where Qfix comes in. Qfix makes Kevlar™ reinforced “mask” kits that are custom formed to each patient and used for all their treatments. Using these masks plus Marian Regional Medical Center’s high resolution CT (computer tomography) and MR (magnetic resonance) imaging and Marian Cancer Center’s in-room CT imaging and real-time patient position mapping equipment, the focused radiation beam can be precisely aimed to kill the tumor while sparing surrounding brain structures.

The technique allows neurosurgeons to treat small tumors in areas of the brain that are too sensitive to undergo regular “open” surgeries. Commonly targeted tumors include brain metastases which have spread to the brain from other malignancies such as breast and lung cancers, meningioma (benign tumors of the lining tissues of the brain), and acoustic neuromas (tumors of the auditory nerve).

Prior to the present advance, Mission Hope Cancer Center patients who needed SRS had to travel to Santa Barbara, Thousand Oaks, or Los Angeles for treatments.

To learn more about the options available at Mission Hope, please join us on Wednesday, June 12, at 5 p.m. as my colleague, Patrick Williams, M.D., Radiation Oncologist, brings to light the exciting new discoveries and techniques in radiation therapy. Reservations are required so please call Mission Hope Cancer Center at 805-219-HOPE (4673) to reserve your seat.

Dr. Case Ketting, a board certified radiation oncologist, has practiced in Santa Maria since 2009 and at Mission Hope Cancer Center since its opening in 2012. He can be reached at 805.925.2529.

HAVE A QUESTION? This weekly column produced by Marian Cancer Care invites you to submit your questions to “Your Cancer Answers” at the following email address: mariancancercare@dignityhealth.org

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