My experience with CyberKnife® began when I had a craniopharyngioma (benign brain tumor) resected in 2007. I had a gross total resection. My neurosurgeon warned me that it was likely to come back. In 2013 it reappeared. The doctor didn't want to do another craniotomy so he told me he wanted to radiate the tumor. I asked: "Gamma Knife?" He said that there was something newer and as accurate that would be used. The first week of September 2013 I began treatment. It was only 5 consecutive days of treatments. Several months later, my radiation oncologist informed me that the tumor was gone, the only thing left was a little bit of scar tissue. I have an MRI scan every six months and so far there has been no regrowth or new tumor. The CyberKnife treatments were easy, only about an hour for each treatment. I did not experience any nausea or sickness during or after my treatments.
New - Todd's Story
Fort Worth, Texas-resident EJ was already dealing with a series of health problems when his pulmonologist broke the news that a "spot" on his lung needed further evaluation.
“My initial reaction was not fear. It was inner determination to fight the unwanted invader,” he recalls.
EJ is no stranger to managing health problems having dealt with several throughout his life, including stage 3B non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“My late wife, Joanne E. Barney, was my rock and my earth angel. I truly believe her support helped me beat lymphoma.”
EJ also had to learn to manage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, type 2 diabetes and serious cardiovascular issues. While someone else may have given up, EJ has never given in to his illnesses. A fighter by trade, EJ’s decades of experience serving in the Air Force helped him to develop the necessary mindset and toughness to battle his health issues, and he’s prevailed every time.
After a series of consultations with specialists, the “spot” on EJ’s lung was diagnosed as stage 1B lung cancer in May 2012. He was referred to the Center for Cancer & Blood Disorders in Fort Worth, Texas where he first learned about the CyberKnife® System.
“At this point in my life, I was already considered very high risk, having recovered from major bypass surgery, and subsequently, three heart attacks in three different states. I was also dealing with an aortic aneurysm and type 2 diabetes. Staying alive was becoming a herculean task.”
EJ and his physician discussed available treatment options including conventional radiation therapy and surgery. He also did his own research, talking with others who had received cancer treatment. EJ was most attracted to the CyberKnife System because it provided a minimally invasive, pain-free option requiring only 1-5 treatment sessions, as opposed to invasive surgery or time-consuming traditional radiation treatments which generally consist of daily sessions five days a week for up to seven weeks. EJ thought about the potential benefits and risks associated with the CyberKnife System and decided it was the right approach for him.
“There were many days when I felt as if the weight of the world was on my shoulders, but doctors urged me to stay as active as possible and not to let the cancer get the upper hand.”
Before beginning CyberKnife treatment, fiducials (tiny gold markers) were placed around the tumor to help the System pinpoint the tumor’s exact location. EJ recalls that the rest was easy, just three consecutive days of treatment with “Robbie, the Robot,” which the center made as enjoyable as possible. Lying on the treatment table, EJ viewed changing garden scenes on the ceiling while listening to his favorite music by Neil Diamond. After every session he thanked the wonderful and caring staff and resumed his normal activities.
Since completing treatment in May 2012, EJ has seen his doctor for checkups to make sure there isn’t a recurrence. It’s been four years since his treatment and EJ is thrilled to say that there’s still no sign of his cancer.
EJ has always lived life to the fullest and he continues to make the most of his days. He and his loving partner Naomi have taken a series of road trips across the country visiting with family and friends along the way. He’s even working on a novel about his life.
EJ is living proof that staying positive can help patients cope with a scary diagnosis. “Always, always know that you are not alone and surround yourself with positive-minded people.”
Whenever the cancer center has a luncheon or candle lighting ceremony for survivors or those who have passed away, EJ and Naomi try to attend and extend positive energy and gratitude toward others in the community.
If EJ could send a message to others with cancer he would want them to know that they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help. “Always, always know that you are not alone. Time after time I hear of neighbors, even entire communities, reaching out to help cancer patients by providing in-home visits, lunches, rides to appointments, and by organizing fund raising events. I’m thankful for the doctors, nurses and hospice workers who provide so much comfort, not only to patients, but to family members as well.”
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men living in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that 233,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2014. Men with a family history of prostate cancer, Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange, and African–Americans are especially at–risk for diagnosis, but Clyde fit none of these categories.
In many respects Clyde was like other retired men his age. He spent time outdoors and on hobbies he loved, volunteered in the community and had an annual prostate–specific antigen (PSA) test. But when his PSA level rose to a 13 and a biopsy revealed he had prostate cancer, Clyde was able to call on his former work experience to guide him while he explored treatment options. Clyde had been employed in the medical imaging industry throughout his career and while radiotherapy equipment was not his specialty, he did have a good understanding of how it worked.
“I’ve been retired for a long time, so I wasn’t surprised that time had marched on and improvements in radiation treatments had taken place,” Clyde said. “But if someone had told me 30 years ago that someday equipment would be able to accurately deliver radiation beams with pinpoint precision within the thickness of a dime, and from hundreds of angles to treat most types of cancer, I wouldn’t have believed it. Well, there is such a machine. The CyberKnife® System.”
Through extensive research Clyde learned the CyberKnife technology uses real–time image guidance to target radiation beams to the prostate, continually adjusting beam delivery for normal movement of the prostate in order to treat the cancer and spare healthy tissue. This precision helps to minimize negative side effects on urinary, bowel, and sexual function that may reduce a man’s quality of life. Clyde thought about the potential benefits and risks associated with this system and decided it was the right approach for him.
Clyde experienced minimal side effects from his treatment and went about his daily routine both during and after his CyberKnife treatment sessions. His PSA has been less than one for more than two years. Says Clyde, “It was like it never happened. I wish all prostate cancer patients could have a similar experience to mine.”
Clyde wants other men to know that while the CyberKnife System may not be appropriate for everyone, they should be aware that it’s an option and available in most large cities in the United States. He also believes it’s important for men to be their own advocate and research treatment options, including CyberKnife. Having an informed discussion with his physician helped Clyde to identify a treatment that worked for him.
Says Clyde, “To my surprise, I learned that eliminating the tumor is the easy part. Most prostate cancer if found in its early stages can be cured. The long–term side effects following treatment are what you need to think about. With CyberKnife, you have a pretty good chance of taking control of the cancer without long–term issues that may impact your daily life.”
As of the creation of this patient profile, Clyde found his CyberKnife treatment to be successful.
61-year-old Marie knew something was wrong when she began feeling intense abdominal pain during her water aerobics classes. An uncomfortable combination of pain and nausea prompted the Boston native to make a doctor’s appointment, where she was told that she might have pancreatic cancer. After losing two colleagues quite quickly to the disease, Marie was understandably frightened. “I had no idea what to say or ask,” she recalls.
The oncology team at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center was visually able to tell that Marie’s tumor was cancerous, but each of her four biopsies came back negative. Doctors were finally able to confirm Marie’s worst fears – she had stage 3 pancreatic cancer. After some discussion, she was prescribed a combination of chemotherapy and radiation treatments with the CyberKnife® System.
Admittedly, Marie was nervous. “When you hear the word CyberKnife, you think you are going to be cut because of the knife part,” she said. “I was scared and told the doctor that I was worried about burning my stomach because of the radiation. The doctor told me that I was not going to be burned at all. On the contrary, I shouldn’t feel a thing.” Marie’s doctor was right – her treatment experience was painless and Marie even fell asleep during the third treatment. “The treatments were painless,” recalls Marie. And best of all, Marie’s doctor told her that she is as close to remission as anyone he’s seen. Marie jokes, “My pancreatic cancer marker is 14. My doctor told me that his number, 18, is higher than mine and he doesn't have cancer!” Tumor markers may be used to help detect, diagnose, and manage some types of cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, “Tumor markers are substances that can sometimes be found in the blood when cancer is present. Two tumor markers may be helpful in pancreatic cancer:
- CA 19-9 is a substance often released into the blood by exocrine pancreatic cancer cells, although it often can’t be detected until the cancer is already advanced.
- Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) is another tumor marker that might help find advanced pancreatic cancer in some people, but it is not used as often as CA 19-9.”
Since her CyberKnife treatment, Marie is spending more time with her grandchildren and is back to her daily two mile walks and water aerobics. She has been participating in pancreatic cancer walks and plans on doing more. “I am feeling so strong,” she says.
Marie has some advice for others who have been diagnosed and are just beginning their cancer journey. “There has been incredible progress made with treatments that can give you years of life. You must go into the process with an open mind, believe that you are much stronger than you think you are, and reach for your inner strength. Go for it with all you can!”
It takes a village to handle and survive metastatic prostate cancer, a prostate cancer that has spread to bones or lungs or lymph nodes and elsewhere. And one of the crucial aspects of that village, for me, has been the CyberKnife, a form of radiation that has been specific and accurate for many of my metastatic lesions, a treatment that has minimized collateral damage.
I was first diagnosed in 1984 at the ripe age of 35, turning 36. Surgery, a radical prostatectomy, was the only real option at that time. Even though my surgeons were convinced they got it all – I loved their optimism – the margins of the cancer were not clear; there appeared to be some rogue cells that had gone beyond the capsule of the prostate.
Indeed the newly developed PSA (prostate specific antigen) in 1989 showed that the tumor had reappeared, at least microscopically. Then the fun began. An intermittent androgen blockade helped me avoid permanent surgical castration, but it meant intermittent castration to stop the cancer cells from being constantly fueled by testosterone, the male hormone.
In 2004 I found my first palpable metastatic prostate cancer. The CyberKnife treatment then saved my life: A lesion in the lung had shown up in a CT Scan – an unusual spot for prostate cancer to spread to. An astute thoracic surgeon pointed out that I did not have to have my ribs and lungs splayed open in order to respond to the cancer. Instead let’s go, she, the surgeon, said to me, to the CyberKnife, available at Georgetown University near my home in Washington, D.C.
And, voila! It worked beautifully.
Subsequently, since 2010, I have had the CyberKnife treatment to several oligometastases, single lesions found here and there when off the androgen withdrawal treatment. Lesions in the thoracic spine, one in the lumbar spine, two separate ones in the skull (the parietal-occipital area) – and one especially sensitive lesion along the edge of the parietal-occipital brain, some rogue cells near where the skull lesions had been active.
Since I make my living using my brain as a psychiatrist, it was crucial that the treatment not create any collateral damage. And with five treatments in 40 minute five day periods, again voila! The CyberKnife treatment has allowed me to live a full life, professionally, recreationally, and family-wise. What a gift!
Yes, now it’s been 31 years of living with prostate cancer, 25 years of living with chemical evidence of metastatic disease, and 11 years of dealing with palpable disease, with CyberKnife continuing to lead the way.
Family comes first for Maria. With parents, two sons, and a granddaughter that Maria is very close with, she focuses her energies on keeping her family healthy and happy. That's why she didn't pay much attention to a slight pain she experienced periodically on the left side of her upper back area. If she became uncomfortable, she would reposition herself throughout the day. While over time the pain became more intense and more frequent, Maria continued to ignore it.
That changed one day following an incident at her parents' home. Maria's father had fallen and she went to the house to help her mother lift him off the floor. As Maria was leaving, her father fell again and while she tried to catch him she fell down herself. Landing hard on her knee, she felt dizzy, with shooting pain in her upper back.
When seeking treatment for her knee at the hospital, a CT and PET scan revealed a tumor on Maria's spine. While the diagnosis explained the pain Maria had been experiencing in her upper back, she was overwhelmed with fear by what this diagnosis might mean for her future.
After further testing, doctors determined that Maria had a six-centimeter benign schwannoma tumor on her spine, just centimeters away from her heart. Because of its location, the tumor was inoperable.
"My doctor explained that surgery could leave me paralyzed, or that I could experience severe bleeding in the operating room," said Maria.
Stunned, Maria carried on through a series of appointments with different specialists seeking alternative treatment options. Then, in what Maria calls her miracle, she was presented with a noninvasive option – the CyberKnife® System at Newport Diagnostic Center.
The doctor explained that the CyberKnife System offered non-invasive treatments, using targeted beams of radiation to destroy tumors. The precision of the CyberKnife treatment would minimize radiation exposure to surrounding healthy tissue. This feature was especially important in Maria's case considering the close proximity of the tumor to her heart. She was also told that if the treatment was successful, she would have a very good chance of avoiding future procedures.
With the CyberKnife System offering more hope for successful treatment, Maria met immediately with Dr. Amanda Schwer, radiation oncologist at Newport Diagnostic Center/Hoag Hospital to review and prepare for her treatment plan. She completed five courses of CyberKnife treatments over a nine-day period.
"I was able to undergo my CyberKnife treatments during my lunch hour and would then head right back to work. I was amazed that I didn't feel a thing," Maria said. "After work I was a little tired and took a nap, but otherwise there were no side effects. It was so convenient, and I felt great throughout the entire process."
Following her CyberKnife treatment, Maria's tumor began to shrink and she has been pain free. Follow-up MRIs have shown that no disease is present, so she is no longer living with a terminal diagnosis.
"My doctors could not believe my progress and kept asking me what I was doing to recover so quickly," Maria noted. "I took my health really seriously after my diagnosis and made sure to take good care of my body, including eating nutritious food and taking supplements."
Today, Maria has a new perspective on life. She wants to help other people who, like her, are given a frightening diagnosis. She plans to volunteer at a hospice and is considering going back to school to become a physical therapist, so that she can help people recover from setbacks.
"I would not be alive without CyberKnife. I firmly believe that it saved my life," Maria concluded. "Not that many people know about their treatment options and I want to help as many people as I can, who find themselves in similar situations."
As of the creation of this patient profile, Maria found her CyberKnife treatment to be successful.
Jeff Hamilton, a NASA engineer and golf enthusiast, found himself working for the Apollo Space Program in Houston, Texas forty-five years ago. Jeff was involved in all of the Apollo/Saturn space launches up until the now infamous “Apollo 13” mission.
After his tenure with the Apollo Space Program, Jeff worked as a venture capitalist with various universities and companies to apply the technologies created for the space program to medicine and other parts of the economy. He worked with some of the major pioneering universities in the United States, including Stanford University where the first CyberKnife System was created.
A few years ago, Jeff’s younger brother was diagnosed with prostate cancer and underwent surgery to remove the cancerous cells. Since his brother’s diagnosis, Jeff has been diligent in staying on top of his PSA testing. He continued to have a clean bill of health until a routine round of tests in November, 2008. Jeff’s PSA results came back higher than normal and after a biopsy determined he had a Gleason score of 6, he was diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer.
Jeff’s urologist at Overlook Hospital in Summit, New Jersey felt that surgery wasn’t a viable option for 72-year-old Jeff, and Jeff wasn’t interested in “watchful waiting”. Jeff was then offered three radiation treatment options: insert radioactive seeds into his prostate, conventional radiation therapy or CyberKnife radiosurgery.
“To me, I read these options as “slow, faster, fastest” as far as treatment times go,” Jeff said.
Wanting to get rid of the cancer as quickly as possible, Jeff opted for CyberKnife radiosurgery.
Jeff underwent five CyberKnife treatments during the course of a week. As there are minimal to no side effects with CyberKnife treatments, Jeff was able to maintain his daily routine during his treatments, including daily rounds of golf.
“The treatment was wonderful. No side effects, no problems, and, per my urologist, no cancer,” said Jeff.
Today, Jeff is cancer free and without the pressure of safely landing space shuttles, he is able to enjoy life and focus on improving his golf handicap.
As of the creation of this patient profile, Jeff found his CyberKnife treatment to be successful.
Until March 16, 2012, 66-year-old Paul Bodner was busy leading a full life in Las Vegas as a husband, father and grandfather. A hospital CEO and healthcare consultant for over 30 years, Paul took great pride in doing everything in his power to keep active and stay healthy. His efforts seemed to be paying off as he felt great mentally and physically. However, a frightening medical diagnosis would soon change Paul’s journey through life.
In early March 2012, Paul went to see Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr. David Silverberg, complaining of pain in his hip. Dr. Silverberg recommended a bone scan, and eventually a biopsy. The results of the biopsy revealed Paul had stage four lung cancer that had metastasized to his hip. This came as a huge shock to Paul because he had never been a smoker and had received a clean bill of health during a routine physical and chest X-ray just two weeks earlier. One month later, an MRI showed three brain lesions, indicating more metastases from his lung cancer.
“I had one life on March 15,” Paul said. “Then I started another life on March 16, which is the life you live focusing on getting well from lung cancer.”
Paul was referred to Radiation Oncologist Dr. Dan Curtis, who recommended treatment with the CyberKnife® System, a non-invasive highly targeted radiation treatment, for his brain tumors. Upon learning about the capability of the CyberKnife System to destroy his brain tumors while minimizing radiation exposure to surrounding healthy tissue and cells, Paul felt confident it was his best option.
On April 23, 2012, Paul underwent just one treatment with the CyberKnife System at Las Vegas CyberKnife at Summerlin. The treatment lasted just under an hour and was so quiet and painless that Paul nearly fell asleep. Following the treatment, he felt so great that he and his wife went out to lunch to celebrate. On July 2, 2012, Paul had a follow-up MRI with Dr. Curtis. The MRI revealed a significant reduction in the size of his brain tumors and no new tumors. The CyberKnife System in combination with traditional radiation and medication which Paul received for his lung cancer and metastatic hip tumor helped put Paul back on track.
Today, Paul is extremely grateful for his good health and credits the CyberKnife treatment as a life-changing procedure.
Since his treatment, Paul has started a CaringBridge.com blog in hopes of giving inspiration to other patients dealing with cancer. He sees his, life post-treatment, as a new chapter, and he aspires to do three things with his new life: turn his blog into a book, inspire others about the new lease on life that comes with overcoming adversity and create a foundation to foster the early-detection of cancer.
As of the creation of this patient profile, Paul found his CyberKnife treatment to be successful.
In February 1969, Valorie’s arteriovenous malformation (AVM) bled for the first time. She felt extreme pain on the back of her neck, her body shook with spasms for about an hour and the right side of her body went numb. Valorie’s parents thought she had thrown out a vertebra in her back.
After several days with no improvement Valorie’s parents took her to see a chiropractor. The chiropractor suggested they see a neurologist. On Valorie’s 13th birthday she checked into the hospital and was put into a traction device to relieve pressure on her skeletal system. In the next week Valorie was given a spinal tap, which showed bleeding in her spinal cord, so the doctors suggested exploratory surgery. The doctors believed Valorie’s right side would be paralyzed for life. Valorie’s parents rejected exploratory surgery and took her home. Over the course of a year she recovered from the bleed and tried to live as normal of a life as possible, always with a dark cloud of uncertainty hanging over her.
In March 1987, at age 31, Valorie’s AVM bled for a second time. She was playing with her one-year-old daughter in the front yard when she felt a familiar stabbing on the back of her neck. She quickly called her family for help and laid down on the couch while her right side, once again, fell asleep. By this time technology had advanced and, once at the hospital, she was given an MRI. The doctors placed a cervical collar on her and put her on a steroid regimen. They said she had an inoperable AVM inside her spinal cord at C2 and C3 of her cervical spine.
Valorie was told that if they attempted to remove the AVM the surgery would leave her paralyzed for life. She was told there was nothing they could do for a cure and that she would not regain use of her right side. She was advised not to get pregnant again, to keep her blood pressure down, and to avoid stress.
For the next eight years Valorie lived in pain and her right side never fully recovered from the loss of sensation. She had constant headaches and an ache in her neck. She returned to Stanford Hospital as instructed for check ups, MRIs and angiograms.
In May of 1996, at age 40, Valorie had a third bleed. Like before, she experienced the same symptoms, was given the same tests and told the same diagnosis. Nothing could be done. While attending a meeting to discuss difficult and rare cases, John Adler Jr., M.D. viewed Valorie’s test results. For the first time in her life Valorie was offered a treatment for her AVM. Doctors told her about the CyberKnife® Robotic Radiosurgery System and its non-invasive treatment, and assured her that as soon as their System was up and running they would treat her AVM.
The day finally came. On July 3, 1997, the doctors at Stanford began preparing for Valorie’s surgery. “My experience with the CyberKnife was awesome,” said Valorie.
Valorie liked being able to watch the CyberKnife System at work. She didn't feel the radiation at all and the time passed by quickly. Her treatment was completed in just a few outpatient visits and she was able to get back to her daily activities right afterward.
Valorie took it easy the next three years and experienced no side effects from her treatment. In August 2000, her MRI and angiogram showed 75 percent shrinkage in her AVM. The CyberKnife radiosurgery had worked but she still needed to get rid of that last 25 percent.
The following month Valorie underwent a second CyberKnife treatment. Valorie felt completely confident in the team at Stanford and was grateful that the CyberKnife System was allowing her to live a normal life without fear of paralysis.
It's been eleven years since Valorie’s first CyberKnife treatment, and eight years since her second treatment and she is doing great. Her follow-up angiogram showed a huge change in her spinal cord AVM. The shrinkage of the AVM has allowed her spinal cord to move back into a more normal position and the smallest and most dangerous feeder veins that were susceptible to bleeds are now gone.
As of the creation of this patient profile, Valorie found her CyberKnife treatment to be successful.
Karen Vinci is a 57-year-old native Californian who was born and raised in the Bay Area and continues to work at her family's restaurant, The Fat Lady, a long-time landmark and one of Oakland’s finest eateries.
In 2003, after a routine physical, Karen was diagnosed with bile duct cancer (Klatskin tumor in the left & right hepatic ducts). After a biopsy confirmed cholangiocarcinoma Karen underwent 12 hours of surgery to remove the malignant tumor. The surgery was complicated. Karen's doctors at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center removed 2/3 of her liver, the common bile duct, the gall-bladder and cystic, along with the hepatic artery that was grossly involved with the disease. Due to some additional complications her doctor inserted two internal/external stent catheters to allow the bile in her liver to drain properly. Consequently, in order to avoid serious bile infections, Karen must visit Interventional Radiology at UCSF Medical Center every four to five weeks to remove and replace her bile stent/drain catheters.
For approximately three and a half years everything was going fairly well. Then in December 2006 a CT scan indicated cancer had returned in one of Karen's lymph nodes. As a standard procedure the UCSF Tumor Board met to discuss Karen's situation. The Tumor Board decided that Karen was inoperable and her only hope for survival was a protocol that included oral chemotherapy, 3D conformal radiation (external beam radiation therapy) and treatment with the CyberKnife® Robotic Radiosurgery System, a highly-accurate, non-invasive tumor treatment technology. When Karen began treatment at UCSF she received the shocking news that her health insurance carrier had denied her coverage, citing that the 3D conformal radiation and the CyberKnife radiosurgery treatment were “experimental”, despite the fact that both the CyberKnife System and 3D conformal radiation therapy have received FDA clearance. Needless to say Karen and her family were devastated.
Several UCSF advocates, Karen’s doctors and family members wrote letters to her insurance company to no avail; they continued to deny treatment. The next step for the family was filing an official grievance with California's Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC), requesting an Independent Medical Review (IMR). Karen ultimately had to meet with the representative from the state agency to explain in detail why she needed the treatment prescribed by her doctor's and to remind them that she was only 56 years old (at the time) and wanted to live and be with her family. Fortunately, the IMR board with the DMHC overruled her insurance company’s position and Karen was able to begin her life saving radiation treatments.
Karen underwent five weeks of 3D conformal radiation therapy and had five consecutive days of one hour treatments with the CyberKnife system. Karen had no side effects from this course of treatment other than being a little tired. She was very pleased and surprised at the ease of the CyberKnife treatment, as well as her ability to get back to her day-to-day activities immediately following the treatments.
Today, Karen is doing well. She recently had her third PET/CT scan at UCSF since undergoing treatment in 2007 and her tumor is gone and her blood work is near normal. Unfortunately, Karen and her husband must stay on top of every billing issue.
“Dealing with the healthcare insurer is a full time job and when you're batting cancer....fighting for your life should be your full time job,” said Karen. “I’m lucky my husband was there to help me fight both battles!”
As of the creation of this patient profile, Karen found her CyberKnife treatment to be successful.
As an entrepreneur, Herb traveled all over the world training employees and factory workers how to use his machines to cut mattes for picture framing. But when he was stricken with trigeminal neuralgia in 2003, Herb could barely walk out his front door.
Often called the suicide disease because a significant number of patients have taken their lives due to the extreme pain, Trigeminal neuralgia is considered to be one of the most painful conditions with which a person suffers repeated episodes of severe sudden burning or shock-like facial pain. The intensity of pain can be physically and mentally incapacitating and can last for days, weeks or months at a time. The attacks often worsen over time, with fewer and shorter pain-free periods before they recur.
Trigeminal neuralgia is caused by a blood vessel pressing on the trigeminal nerve in the head where it exits the brain stem. It occurs most often in people over age 50, but it can occur at any age, and is more common in women than in men.
“Most people don’t know how intense this pain can be,” said Herb, a 78-year-old Mississippi native. “Over a two year period, the pain would come and go unexpectedly and effect different parts of my face. I had to quit doing the things I loved most as well as the things nearly everyone takes for granted.”
The intense flashes of pain that come from Trigeminal neuralgia can be triggered by vibration of or contact with the cheek (often occurring when shaving, washing the face), brushing teeth, eating, drinking, talking, or being exposed to the wind, causing an obvious and drastic impact on the patient’s quality of life.
After retiring in 1997, Herb wasn’t one to sit around. “Even when I wasn’t working, I would get up at 4 a.m. and start my day,” he said, noting that he enjoyed life, driving his golf cart around the lake on his property, spending time with is wife of 60 years, Sadie, and his family, and doing the chores on his “honey do” list.
But with the onslaught of trigeminal neuralgia episodes, Herb could only lay motionless in a lounge chair with his head turned a certain way, in order to ease the pain. “I couldn’t bend over, I couldn’t walk outside and I couldn’t deal with heat.”
As is often the case with trigeminal neuralgia, Herb’s condition went into remission for awhile, but returned in September 2005 with a vengeance. “I was weak. I didn’t have any energy and I couldn’t sleep,” Herb said. “It was at that point I decided that something had to change. I wanted my life back.
Herb started looking into a number of treatment alternatives, since steroids and other medications had not been effective in relieving his pain. One option was brain surgery, but it would be extremely invasive. During the surgical procedure, they bore a hole in a patient’s head and lift the blood vessel off the nerve. Despite the pain and debilitation caused by the trigeminal neuralgia, Herb did not want to undergo such an invasive, complicated procedure. Plus, Herb knew there were a number of risks involved with such delicate surgery. In addition to months of recovery time, the brain surgery could result in a stroke, bruising and swelling of his brain, hydrocephalus, facial paralysis, hearing loss and paralysis of the muscles that control movement of the eyes, among other side effects.
Another alternative presented to Herb was radiosurgery. Radiosurgery is the most recent and least invasive treatment for trigeminal neuralgia. As Herb was researching the various radiosurgery options available to him, he discovered the CyberKnife® Robotic Radiosurgery System. CyberKnife radiosurgery is one of the most accurate treatment modalities for trigeminal neuralgia. The CyberKnife System works by delivering high doses of radiation to destroy the pain fibers in the nerve. In addition to its extreme precision, CyberKnife treatments are pain free, do not require anesthesia and are performed on an outpatient basis. Patients come to the treatment in their street clothes, listen to their favorite CD and are able to return to normal activities immediately following treatment.
In June 2006, Herb underwent one 90 minute treatment with the CyberKnife at Baptist Medical Center in Jackson, Miss. More than a year has passed since Herb’s CyberKnife treatment and the pain has not returned.
“The pain I experienced was unimaginable, I’m so thankful to have found the CyberKnife,” said Herb. ”It’s my mission now to tell others with trigeminal neuralgia that they don’t have to suffer or worry about what could happen as a result of surgery. The CyberKnife treatment was easy and worked incredibly well.”
As of the creation of this patient profile, Herb found his CyberKnife treatment to be successful.
At 79 years old, Myrle is not your typical senior. She retired from the financial planning business at 74. After three years of volunteer work, she decided to dive back into the job market, joining Prosperity Mortgage, a Wells Fargo joint venture, at the age of 77. The job had Myrle traveling throughout Delaware and nearby New Jersey and Pennsylvania, counseling other senior citizens about reverse mortgages.
It was during this time, the fall of 2009, that Myrle started experiencing extremely painful headaches. Myrle has suffered from migraines all her life, but these headaches were different. She paid a visit to her doctor who suggested she get an MRI. The MRI revealed a tumor, a meningioma, located in her brain.
Myrle had a few options. She could undergo conventional surgery, but surgery carried some major risks including seizures and vision problems. She could also take the wait-and-see approach, but leaving the tumor untreated made Myrle uneasy. So she decided to undergo treatment using the CyberKnife® Robotic Radiosurgery System.
This outpatient, non-invasive procedure uses targeted beams of radiation to destroy tumors. CyberKnife radiosurgery would allow for the doctors to deliver the radiation to Myrle’s tumor while avoiding her normal brain tissue to minimize the chance of side effects. Myrle underwent three, half-hour CyberKnife treatments in August 2009.
“It was relaxing,” said Myrle. “I just laid on the table and listened to some nice music while the technicians kept track of my treatment.”
Myrle didn’t experience any side effects during her treatments. After each treatment, she left the hospital and went about her usual day, never missing a beat.
As of Jan. 2011, Myrle’s tumor is stable. It hasn’t grown, and her doctors expect it will begin to shrink over time. She no longer experiences those excruciating headaches and has been able to focus on her active life.
After a year of consulting and being on the road, Myrle decided to take a break and become a freelance writer. She spends her time reporting for a Delaware magazine aimed at seniors and writing white papers, grant proposals, and website content for local businesses. In her spare time, Myrle hopes to start her first novel.
As of the creation of this patient profile, Myrle found her CyberKnife treatment to be successful.
Joel Momberg struggles with life’s daily stresses like everyone else. When he started feeling numbness on his face, his doctor told him to slow down and take it easy. But the numbness didn’t subside and eventually spread to the entire right side of Joel’s face. That’s when Joel’s doctor sent him to the hospital.
An MRI discovered a schwannoma, a non-malignant tumor, sitting on a sensory nerve on Joel’s brain. Joel was all too familiar with brain tumors. Fifteen years before, his brother was diagnosed with the most common and aggressive type of brain tumor, glioblastoma. Unfortunately, Joel’s brother lost his battle just a few years after being diagnosed.
While Joel’s tumor was not malignant like his brother’s, the tumor was sitting on the sensory nerve that controlled feeling to part of the right side of his face. Joel’s doctor, Harry van Loveren, M.D., chairman of the Neurosurgery Department at the University of South Florida, explained that surgery came with risks: if surgeons clipped the nerve, Joel could lose feeling permanently. Dr. van Loveren recommended treatment with the CyberKnife Robotic Radiosurgery System – a non-invasive alternative to treating the tumor.
While Joel was digesting this news, doctors discovered blockage in his arteries. Joel had to delay his brain tumor treatment so doctors could implant two stents. Shortly after his heart surgery, Joel followed his doctor’s advice and decided to receive treatment with the CyberKnife System.
“The other treatment options didn’t sound as promising,” said Joel. “The CyberKnife not only carried fewer side effects, it also appeared to be the most effective.”
This non-invasive procedure uses targeted beams of radiation to destroy tumors. This option minimizes the possibility of Joel’s nerve being compromised and allowed Joel a very good chance of avoiding another invasive procedure. Joel’s treatments started in June 2010.
To combat his anxiousness and avoid having to repeat his treatment experiences to family, Joel turned to the internet. On his blog—I Was Born Very Young—Joel wrote about his CyberKnife treatments and even poked fun at the procedure, including the mask he had to wear during treatment to minimize movement of his head. After the first couple treatments, Joel relaxed and used his half-hour appointments to sit back and listen to his iPod.
Throughout treatment, Joel continued his work at the University of South Florida. He would undergo his CyberKnife treatment in the morning and then head into the office. Joel never experienced any pain or discomfort.
After his treatments, the numbness in his face began to subside. Joel’s follow-up MRIs show that the tumor has shrunk dramatically in size. Today, he has regained all the feeling on the right side of his face…even his taste buds are working again.
“Technology has come so far since when my brother was diagnosed with brain cancer,” said Joel. “I don’t know where I would be today if it wasn’t for CyberKnife.”
As of the creation of this patient profile, Joel found his CyberKnife treatment to be successful.
Patsy's StoryVideo Transcript
Patsy, proud mother to two sons serving in the Air Force and wife of 29 years to her husband Jayme, was diagnosed with breast cancer on October 17, 2007. Since then she has endured a double mastectomy, five months of chemotherapy and finally, the easy part of her treatment, CyberKnife® radiosurgery to the liver and spine.
In fall 2005, Patsy started to feel a little different. She couldn’t exactly explain it but she felt overly tired and things that she usually liked to do, like shopping, just didn’t appeal to her anymore. When Patsy visited her doctor, she was told it was depression and was prescribed medication. Patsy discounted the depression theory because she was happier than she had been in years. Patsy and her husband were building their dream home, both of their sons were self-supporting productive citizens and she and Jayme had great jobs. Since the doctor didn’t find anything wrong with the tests they had run, Patsy just assumed her feelings were part of getting older and that it was in her head.
Patsy knew she was at high risk for breast cancer. Her mother was diagnosed in 1998 and underwent a mastectomy on her left side. Her mother’s cancer returned the next year on the right side and she had a lumpectomy. In 2002, the cancer returned to the bone and Patsy’s mother lost her fight in 2004. Throughout her mother’s illness, Patsy was fortunate that she could serve as her mother’s primary caregiver. She attended almost all of her mother’s appointments and treatments. Patsy even stayed with her mother in the hospital and finally in hospice during the last weeks of her life. Patsy witnessed first-hand how horrible and devastating breast cancer can be. Patsy was diligent about getting her mammograms, knowing that early detection was crucial.
“I had five mammograms over the three years prior to my diagnosis,” Patsy said. “Breast cancer terrified me!”
In February of 2007, her mammogram showed a suspicious spot measuring 1.9 cm. Patsy received a letter stating the spot was benign but that she needed to recheck it in six months. In September she had the mammogram repeated and learned that the spot had grown to 2.5 cm. This time the radiologist recommended a biopsy.
“I don’t think it is possible to explain how you feel when you hear the words ‘you have cancer’,” said Patsy. “But I can tell you that it pretty much just sucks all the air from your body. I couldn’t breathe.”
For Patsy, one of the hardest parts of her cancer diagnosis was telling the people she loved, especially since they had lost her mother to the disease only four years earlier. Patsy’s youngest son, Chris, was in Kuwait. They made a decision not to tell him since there was nothing he could do but worry. Her other son, Kyle, came home to help care for her after surgery. Her husband took the news pretty well and he tried to console her by telling her it would all be ok because they found it early.
After many doctor appointments for opinions and long nights on the internet searching for more information, Patsy decided to have a double mastectomy. Her tumor was located in the same spot as her mother’s and she felt this was a sign that if she didn’t remove both breasts then she would be facing the same situation again, in the future. She wanted to be proactive to ensure that she eradicated the disease so she would never have to deal with it again.
After surgery, Patsy was scheduled for five months of chemotherapy with Herceptin, since her cancer was HER2 positive. She was told that although it would not be easy, stage II disease is perfectly curable. Patsy’s oncologist ran a battery of tests before she started treatment, but unfortunately the PET scan showed a spot on her liver. After two biopsies, Patsy received the horrifying news that her breast cancer had spread to her liver. She had one solitary lesion in her liver, which moved her from stage II to stage IV. Up until this point Patsy was confident that she would beat the disease, but now, for the first time, she started to have doubts as to whether she would survive.
Patsy’s oncologist set up a consultation with a liver specialist. The specialist thought her best treatment option was a liver resection. This surgery required a five day hospital stay and a six week recovery period. Due to the invasive nature of this procedure, coupled with the long recovery time, Patsy decided to pursue other options.
During consultations about her liver cancer with Debra Freeman M.D., Naples Community Hospital and Harvey Greenberg, M.D., CyberKnife Center of Tampa Bay, Patsy was told that she was a perfect candidate for treatment with the CyberKnife Robotic Radiosurgery System. She was very excited. She would undergo three treatments to the liver and would experience no hair loss, have no hospital stay and could return to her normal life immediately following treatment.
Patsy was very familiar with the CyberKnife System because her husband is a service engineer for Accuray, the company who developed and markets the technology. He has been in the radiation therapy field for more than 22 years. Patsy never imagined that she or a family member would end up lying under the same system her husband services.
“I think the best thing about CyberKnife radiosurgery is that I felt the same after treatment as I did before treatment. Anything I could do before I was treated, I could continue to do afterward,” said Patsy. “The experience of the actual treatment was really kind of interesting. I was able to watch the robot move around me, lock on, track my breathing and shoot the beam into my liver. I never felt a thing and was left with no sign whatsoever that I had any treatments. The CyberKnife is truly a miracle!”
Patsy continued to receive Herceptin treatments until tests revealed that her heart function was dropping, a side effect that some women experience when receiving this drug. Unfortunately, only four months after the Herceptin treatments were discontinued, the cancer struck again. A small lesion on the spine was detected on the scan.
“Again, how can this be? Only four months off my treatment, I felt didn’t have a prayer. I was immediately put back on my Herceptin and once again I turned to Cyberknife to help destroy my cancer,” said Patsy.
Dr. Harvey Greenberg agreed that Cyberknife radiosurgery could be an effective tool to treat this new lesion. Patsy had three Cyberknife treatments, again without side effects or pain. After three months her PET scan revealed that her spine lesion had decreased in size from an SUV of 8.9 to 3.2. Patsy and her doctors are confident that given a few more months this spot will be eradicated.
As for her liver lesion, Patsy is happy to report that after her Cyberknife treatments, each PET scan has shown continued improvement. Her liver tumor has decreased in size so that now, two years after treatment, her PET scan report shows her liver as having “Normal Metabolic Activity”. There is no indication of cancer remaining in the organ.
Because Patsy’s breast cancer had spread to other areas of her body, she will continue to be monitored closely to ensure that the cancer does not return. She will continue with the Herceptin treatments, which targets any remaining cancer cells that could be in her body. Patsy believes with all her heart that the CyberKnife System helped save her life by giving her an effective option to treat her spine and liver tumors.
As of the creation of this patient profile, Patsy found her CyberKnife treatment to be successful.
For Carol M., life revolves around family, including her three children and 11 grandchildren. However, for many years, a cloud also has hung over this family due to Carol’s health issues. The worst was in 1993, when Carol was first diagnosed with advanced renal cell carcinoma, the most prevalent form of kidney cancer. Frightened, Carol underwent surgery to remove her kidney, and, despite being shaken, felt confident the cancer was gone. Unfortunately, a decade later in 2003, doctors found a separate tumor on her remaining kidney, and again she had to undergo surgery.
Later that same year, Carol was given more bad news: her kidney cancer had metastasized to her bones. It wasn’t long before the tumors on Carol’s tailbone and spine were causing her unbearable pain. The pain got so bad that Carol had trouble even sitting down, and she found it increasingly difficult to keep up with her grandchildren. After speaking with her doctor, Naomi Haas, M.D., at the University of Pennsylvania, and researching multiple treatment options with her family, Carol decided to undergo treatment with the CyberKnife® Robotic Radiosurgery System to help improve her quality of life and allow her more time to spend with her family. CyberKnife radiosurgery is a non-invasive treatment option and is used often for patients, such as Carol, who have limited treatment options.
Carol was first treated with the CyberKnife System in 2009 and describes the procedure as painless. Unlike her kidney surgeries—which left Carol with long, debilitating recovery times during which she was forced to miss important family activities—her CyberKnife treatments came with virtually no recovery time and completely alleviated her pain. In fact, Carol was able to return to her normal activities immediately, including spending time with her family at the beach, something she loves to do.
Additionally, one of Carol’s fears when she learned she needed to undergo more cancer treatment was that she would lose her hair. Since CyberKnife treatment does not cause this side effect, Carol found that to be an additional bonus, making getting through treatment that much easier.
Since 2009 Carol and her physicians have been using treatment with the CyberKnife System to help manage her disease. On Valentine’s Day 2012, while undergoing treatment for a new set of tumors on her tailbone and spine, Carol had a date planned with her son and was elated that she could head directly to dinner following her CyberKnife treatment session.
Carol and her family are passionate about sharing their experience with the CyberKnife System because the unique technology has helped their family better cope with the stresses of cancer treatment. Carol wants other patients to know that CyberKnife treatment is completely non-invasive and involves no pain or cutting. She describes the actual treatment experience by saying, “It’s like a human robot that moves around your body from multiple angles while you lie there. It’s remarkable and fascinating. I’m thankful to have been presented with the CyberKnife treatment option and that instead of hindering my quality of life, my life is now more enjoyable because of it.”
As of the creation of this patient profile, Carol found her CyberKnife treatment to be successful.
Mark’s journey with his Acoustic Neuroma started years before he knew it. In 1991 he remembers sitting in his living room listening to music through headphones and thinking that the right speaker didn't sound right. He assumed that the stereo was broken and he’d just have to replace it someday.
Several months later, Mark woke up to birds chirping outside his window. When he rolled over onto his left side, he noticed the chirping went away, and that it came back when his left ear was uncovered. This was the first moment that Mark realized something was wrong.
Three years later in 1994, Mark’s hearing hadn’t improved and now there was a "plugged up" feeling. He complained about it during a physical exam, so his doctor scheduled an audiogram – his first since grade school. The audiogram confirmed that he had some unilateral high frequency hearing loss in his right ear. When he looked for reasons, Mark received a variety of answers ranging from too much rock music, a firecracker when he was young, or "just one of those things". Mark still wondered about the "plugged" feeling? Could something in his head be causing it? Mark was told that it was probably just a sensation relative to his hearing loss. He wasn't comfortable with those answers and blamed the issues on a plane flight he had taken while sick a few years back.
Seven years later in 2001, during a routine check up Mark mentioned it felt like his hearing had dropped again so his doctor scheduled another audiogram. The test confirmed that his right ear had deteriorated in the high frequency range. This time, however, the audiologist scheduled an appointment with an Ear Nose Throat (ENT) specialist who conducted several tests and scheduled an MRI. Two weeks after his MRI, Mark met with the ENT and learned that he had an Acoustic Neuroma.
”I reacted like anyone would faced with such news; fear, panic, ‘why me’ thoughts raced through my head all at once,” said Mark. “My wife, Nancy, was a great support and she immediately helped me search the Internet in an effort to better understand this diagnosis. We found a lot of helpful web sites and slowly began to get a handle on what my diagnosis involved and what the options were for treating it.”
Mark consulted neurosurgeons at two different facilities who suggested various surgical approaches with differing results and potential side effects including facial nerve damage and permanency of his hearing loss. Mark determined that he wasn't comfortable with their approaches or the risk levels associated with the surgeries, so he decided to seek out another opinion.
Mark went to Stanford where he had a consultation with Lawrence Shuer, M.D., professor of neurosurgery and chief of staff for Stanford Hospital and Clinics. This is where his Acoustic Neuroma journey took a major turn. Dr. Shuer listened to his overview of previous consults and asked why Mark was not considering treatment with the CyberKnife® Robotic Radiosurgery System. Mark shared what he had heard about the risks. Dr. Shuer was able to clarify some of the misinformation and brought in Steven Chang, M.D., neurosurgeon and director of the CyberKnife Radiosurgery program at Stanford Hospital and Clinics. They pointed out that radiosurgery had been used for more than 30 years with extremely high rates of tumor control.
This new information gave Mark a lot more to think about, but his final decision was made easier knowing that both Dr. Shuer and Dr. Chang, recommended CyberKnife radiosurgery, in light of their ability to do surgery. Dr. Chang also put him in touch with several patients who had been treated with the CyberKnife System previously to hear about their experience.
Mark decided to undergo CyberKnife radiosurgery for his Acoustic Neuroma. The treatment itself was done on an outpatient basis over the course of three consecutive days before Thanksgiving 2001. Each day he lay on the treatment table and listened to the CyberKnife System move quietly around him. While he took the week off from work and took it easy those three days, the rest of his life was uninterrupted. Mark went back to work the next week and resumed his workout schedule the day after treatment.
Mark’s follow-up tests to date have been very positive. At six months, the audiogram showed that his hearing was unchanged and the MRI showed that the Acoustic Neuroma was darkening and was slightly smaller in size. After one year, the audiogram actually showed some improvement in speech recognition and in nerve function. The latter was significant as it suggested that the radiation dosage had been tolerated well by the nerve. The second follow-up MRI showed the Acoustic Neuroma was essentially the same size, but had turned white again, indicating scarring. Dr. Chang told Mark that his Acoustic Neuroma was following the classic progressions of necrosis – or cell death.
”I’m so thankful for having had the opportunity to have been treated by the wonderful physicians at Stanford and to have found a non-invasive technology like the CyberKnife,” said Mark. “When I first started down this path I was resigned to having a very risky surgical procedure and certainly a loss of hearing and a possibility of other deficits. Instead, I never saw an operating room and my quality of life was unchanged. I couldn't be happier with how things have worked out.”
In December 2007 Mark had his six year post-treatment MRI and audiogram. He met with Dr. Chang and reviewed the results, which continued to be very positive. Mark’s Acoustic Neuroma still showed up as very “dead” and had shrunk further in size. Overall, the tumor was 25 to 30 percent less in volume compared to the time of treatment. His hearing test showed that there had been no decline since pre-treatment levels with speech recognition at 100 percent in his affected ear.
As of the creation of this patient profile, Mark found his CyberKnife treatment to be successful.
Warren's StoryVideo Transcript
WARREN: My name's Warren Forman. I'm 67 years old, here with my wife, Connie, and my two boys, Tivon and Jordan.
CONNIE: We've been married 32 years and now we're taking care of the medical things in our lives [LAUGHTER].
WARREN: Going back about a year and half ago I had a PSA level of 5. A year later it was up to 8. The biopsy came back with no cancer on the left side and two out of four specimens on the right side had cancer cells. They were Gleason 8.
CONNIE: So you start thinking about your relatives and he also had forgotten that his Uncle Solly had died of prostate cancer.
WARREN: I wasn't terribly alarmed. I was more concerned about what would fit into my lifestyle in matters of side effects, which is one of the reasons why I eliminated surgery really from the beginning.
CONNIE: He did a lot of research and he was able to speak to other people who went through the procedure that he's having now, CyberKnife.
KATZ: I'm Dr. Alan Katz and we're standing here at the CyberKnife in Flushing, Queens. The CyberKnife is actually an ideal tool to treat prostate cancer because it turns out that prostate cancer, unlike most other cancers, has a great sensitivity to dose per fraction. That is a very high dose and fewer fractions seems to work better biologically than a lot of little doses, which is the standard way of treatment. So in order to deliver the five treatments that we do with very high doses you need to have what CyberKnife does for you. You need to have great accuracy and you need to have great conformality, that is you want the dose to hug the prostate and have as little dose as possible to the bladder and the rectum.
WARREN: Your mother and I will go into Flushing to the CyberKnife.
MAN: What time will you be done?
WARREN: I think it takes about 45 minutes the first day. It may take a little longer to set up and everything else, but.
KATZ: Hi, Mr. and Mrs. Forman. Good to see you again.
KATZ: OK, why don't we come back and talk a little bit before the treatment. You're going to feel nothing. You're going to see that robot moving around you. During the treatment if you have any problem of any sort you can raise your hand, just yell and we'll be able to stop the treatment and continue it.
MAN: You take a look at the monitor. The machine looks like an arm and it's able to bend and move all over the patient so that it's not just in a fixed position. It's all around all the points that need to be treated with the prostate. Usually after the first day the patient is very nervous. After the second day they kind of see how the machine is working inside the room and they usually are just very relaxed after that.
WARREN: Well, we had our first treatment last night. After the first procedure with CyberKnife I felt fine. I felt really nothing. I didn't feel tired. I didn't feel fatigued. Had to get up rather early this morning for day two of the CyberKnife treatment. Again I had to do a Fleet enema to empty myself out. My wife Connie will be staying home. There's really no reason for her to have to go with me because I feel fine going by myself. Fortunately we just got out of the worst part of the traffic and we should be arriving in plenty of time.
MAN: CyberKnife. We'll want to know how long the treatment will last. We'll have a, once we bring up the patient's plan at the console it will give us an estimated time. Warren is doing exceptionally well right now. He's very relaxed. There's not a lot of movement at all. It's a very smooth treatment right now.
WARREN: Staying still for the 45 minutes of the CyberKnife treatment is a little difficult. You hear the roaring of the machine and the movement of the machine. You look around and it's kind of odd. It's really kind of strange. This machine is moving around your body. You start playing mental games, as when is it radiating me and when is it not radiating me? But it's kind of silly because there's no way of your knowing.
MAN: The mechanics of the machine when they're rotating to the next position can be kind of loud. So we do put on some music to help the patient relax, so that he has less movement if possible. A wonderful feature about the CyberKnife is the chances of not treating the wrong patient with the wrong plan. Each plan is designed for every particular patient, where it's pretty difficult to treat the wrong patient with the wrong plan. We go through a series of checks. I think that's an awesome safety mechanism that we have with this treatment.
WARREN: I feel fine. It's really very, very uneventful. Now I'm going to go home and have something to eat and then get to my home office and start doing some work. Nothing much. I'm back in the house. I had my second treatment this morning.
MAN: My father's been a real estate lawyer I think since the early '60s.
WARREN: It's quarter to eleven and I just returned from my second treatment and I'm already here at work.
MAN: His work ethic is far above the average person.
WARREN: I got a delivery of mail from the office, which we've gone through.
JORDAN: When I found out my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer obviously I was very concerned.
WARREN: Going over my emails. I'm probably going to put in the better part of a full day's work today.
JORDAN: We'll all be here for him, try to make it go by smoothly, but I'm sure he'll be on the phone as often as he can be.
WARREN: And I'm looking forward to getting it done. Then we'll move on to day three tomorrow.
Day three of my CyberKnife treatment and aside from being dark out this morning it's also nasty out. So our trip in this morning will be a little bit more adventurous than usual. When I see Dr. Katz today I'm just going to review the Fleet enema issues because it is a little burdensome having to do it every single day.
KATZ: Warren, so far you've had three treatments. Today is your third. How have you been feeling?
WARREN: I feel fine.
KATZ: Good. Any problems with the urination?
KATZ: Nothing? OK. You've been taking the Dulcolax the night before and a Fleet enema. Has that been upsetting your stomach at all?
WARREN: Yes, it has.
KATZ: OK. So I think since you're getting some cramps and you clean out so good we could probably back off on the Dulcolax. I'd just take the Fleet enema in the morning. That should be sufficient. Two more days of the same thing and you're done.
MAN: Prior to the patient coming in the doctor implants the seeds within the patient. The seeds that are used for tracking with the machine. It lets us know where his prostate is. When the doctor implants the seeds we're able to track where exactly the prostate is by using the seeds and fiducials that are in place. That's letting the machine know that this is where the prostate is and it's able to track every movement that's going on.
KATZ: This is the only form of radiation that I've ever worked with where we're able to actually ascertain through the use of the fiducial seeds that we constantly track exactly what the position of the prostate is. To be able to follow this and to correct for this during the treatment really gives us unparalleled accuracy. So today is the third day of Warren's treatment. We don't see any side effects yet from the CyberKnife treatment. He's not having any urinary problems. He is having one side effect which really comes from the cleanout. We do this fairly rigorous cleanout to insure that there's no gas or stool in the rectum, because gas or stool in the rectum can make the prostate move. So we're doing this to keep the prostate very still. It will be next week when he starts to get some of the side effects from the CyberKnife treatment, which will be some urinary frequency, a slower stream, maybe some urgency and some bowel frequency. And they generally last about ten to 12 days. Most patients when they seek out CyberKnife treatment generally have looked at other forms of radiation and one of the things that they find is say with surgery that there's this risk they could have, incontinence of urine, that they may lose erectile function. So obviously the first thing that most people are concerned about is will my cancer be cured, of course. So far our results have been very, very good in that department. But secondarily then the patients are concerned about these possible side effects. The chance of getting any significant incontinence with our treatments has been very low, less than 1%, much better than surgical [series?]. We've had a very, very high success rate in preserving erectile function. We're seeing about 80% of preservation.
WARREN: I am pleased with the way things have been going so far with the CyberKnife treatment. I'm looking forward to finishing off the last couple of days.
We're getting ready to start Day Four of the CyberKnife treatment and I'm just getting some paperwork together because after the treatment I'm going to go into the office. The people in the office are anticipating my coming in just to make sure that I'm being honest and that I'm fine, because they are concerned. They keep on asking me, anything wrong? Do you feel anything?
MAN: Today Mr. Forman's here for his fourth day of treatment. One of the advantages of the CyberKnife for radiation is the amount of time that it takes to be treated. Mr. Forman will be done with his treatment in five days. Most patients who do come in for the CyberKnife treatment have a lot of daily tasks that they have to do, a lot of them work. So this is a great option for them for their treatment.
OK, Mr. Forman. The fourth treatment is finished. One more tomorrow.
FORMAN: My firm consists of six of us. So it's myself, a paralegal and support staff. I know when I walked in they were all very happy to see me back. I'm back. I feel back.
GINA: I think he looks great. I think he looks better than when he left the office. The treatment seems to be successful. I think he looks awesome.
ERICA: I was happy to see him and we gave him a hug. I gave him a hug, Gina gave him a hug. I asked him how he was doing and he's like I'm fine.
GINA: Working with Warren during the course of his treatment was really no different than any other time when he's been on vacation or medical leave. Basically we communicate over the phone, via email. We get him his mail and documents by messenger or personal delivery from one of the staff members. Really nothing has changed.
MAN: And you feel good?
WARREN: I feel fine. Just one more day, that's all and I'll be back to normal.
[SONG for second night of Chanukah]
WARREN: This is the second night of Chanukah, which reminded me that it was a night that a very dear friend of ours, Michael Clark, passed away. He died of cancer. Not prostate, stomach cancer. Having had my fourth CyberKnife treatment today and having it coincide with his death, it made me think and be thankful for the CyberKnife treatment. He unfortunately didn't have that opportunity. Tomorrow's my fifth and last CyberKnife treatment. I'm looking forward to it being over with it, not that it was a drudge or it was difficult or I felt any pain or suffering from it, but just knowing that it's behind me.
This is day five, the last day of CyberKnife treatment. I went to bed last night realizing that I only had to get up at this early hour one more time.
MAN: His treatments went really well. He hasn't had any issues. If everything is fine from there then he'll make a six-month follow up with the doctor and if he has any other questions [UNINTELLIGIBLE].
KATZ: I've studied 600 to 700 patients now that I've treated with CyberKnife for prostate cancer. In those patients that have four years follow up we're seeing extremely low levels of PSA. If you have an excellent PSA level, very low, at four to five years you pretty much are cured.
MAN: After the last day of treatment we find the patients are very appreciative of our service here. They're very appreciative that it's only been five days and they are finished with their treatment.
WARREN: Just finished my fifth and last day treatment with CyberKnife, which is behind me here. I'm done. It's been an interesting week. Probably if anything stays with me it's the reaction of my employees and the people I work with in the office when I came back, how happy they seemed to be that I was there and gratified that I was well. That was really kind of nice. Tomorrow night we'll be having family over to celebrate Chanukah and I think everybody will be happy to be there with my treatment having ended. So I think that we'll have two reasons to celebrate tomorrow.
In October of 2011, California resident Forrest “Skip” Baker was unexpectedly hospitalized with severe stomach pain. After routine tests were unable to identify the source of his pain, Skip was sent home.
One month later, Skip received a phone call that would forever change his life: he had stage IV lung cancer, which had metastasized to his adrenal gland. Having been a smoker most of his life, this was the news Skip feared most. Knowing that lung cancer is the second most common cancer and the primary cause of cancer-related death in men, Skip knew he needed to find a treatment that would give him the best fighting chance.
Skip was referred to Kaiser Permanente South San Francisco Medical Center where his radiation oncologist, Dr. Laura Ellen Millender, made it clear that he was not a candidate for surgery due to his age and the fact that his cancer had already spread to his adrenal glands. Instead, Dr. Millender suggested that Skip consider treating his lung tumors with the CyberKnife® Robotic Radiosurgery System, a non-invasive alternative to surgery for the treatment of both cancerous and non-cancerous tumors anywhere in the body. During CyberKnife treatment, high-dose beams of radiation are delivered to the tumor site with extreme accuracy, while the patient lays comfortably, breathing normally. The CyberKnife minimizes radiation to the surrounding healthy tissue and allows doctors to treat tumors without the risks and side effects often associated with surgery.
A former mechanical engineer who helped build the very first six axes robot more than 34 years ago, Skip’s background in mechanics and technology helped him understand how the CyberKnife works and reassured him that his decision to opt for this robotic treatment option was the right one. With the added advantage that treatment margins are significantly smaller with robotic radiosurgery than traditional radiation therapy, Skip felt optimistic about his chances for a successful treatment, fewer side effects and positive outcome.
In late November 2011, Skip began a series of three CyberKnife treatments on the lesions in his right lung, followed by three CyberKnife treatments on his adrenal gland. He was surprised and impressed at how easy each treatment session was. Skip’s six-month PET scan in June 2012 came back clean and showed that there was no longer any sign of cancer in his lungs. Skip plans to receive additional CyberKnife treatment for his adrenal cancer in the near future.
“Since my CyberKnife treatment, I feel great,” said Skip. “I’m able to participate in any activities I want and am enjoying spending more quality time with my supportive and loving wife and family.” Thanks in part to his CyberKnife treatments, Skip’s quality of life has been preserved, a fact that has prompted Skip and his wife to plan a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Hawaii next year to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary.
As of the creation of this patient profile, Forrest found his CyberKnife treatment to be successful.
In May 2011 El Paso, Texas resident Lewis German received news that would change his life forever.
After an episode where he coughed up blood, 63 year-old Lewis went to see his doctor. A volunteer firefighter for 35 years and a smoker up until 10 years prior, Lewis had been experiencing a reoccurring cough throughout much of his adult life so he did not go into the doctor’s appointment thinking it was anything serious.
But unfortunately, it was serious – Lewis was told he had stage 1B lung cancer in his lower left lobe.
When talking about treatment options, initially, his physician only gave him the option of surgery to remove his tumor, but that was unacceptable for Lewis. After watching his mother undergo surgery for a brain tumor, he knew he wanted to avoid surgery at all cost. Lewis did not want to experience the side effects many patients experience after surgery for lung cancer, including long recovery times and breathing problems.
Lewis decided to take matters in his own hands and researched treatment options for lung cancer online, which led him to the non-invasive CyberKnife® Robotic Radiosurgery System. After gathering information about the CyberKnife treatment from the CyberKnife of Southern California at Vista as well as discussing the CyberKnife option with his own physician, who agreed it was a viable option for him, Lewis knew it was the best choice. He appreciated how kind and compassionate the staff was and that they offered him straightforward facts about the CyberKnife treatment option, including the fact that he could go about his normal activities during his treatment session and he would not require the recovery time needed with traditional surgery.
In June 2011 Lewis traveled to California for his treatments, which lasted a total of three days. Lewis was shocked at how pain-free and comfortable he was during his CyberKnife treatments. He was able to shop, go out to eat and see some of the sights throughout his treatment session. Best of all, after the treatments when he returned to Texas, Lewis was able to carry on his busy day including helping his wife run a web-based cosmetics company, with no side effects at all. In his own words Lewis says, “It was better than going to the dentist.” In fact his CyberKnife treatment was so easy, Lewis was actually a little skeptical if it worked.
But it did – Lewis went back in March 2012 for a check-up and the tumor was gone – “airspace” as he calls it. It has been almost a year since Lewis’s CyberKnife treatments, and he is happy to announce he is in great health. He looks forward to his next healthy scan and spreading his incredible story about CyberKnife radiosurgery.
As of the creation of this patient profile, Lewis found his CyberKnife treatment to be successful.
Dannys Story - Metastasis to the LungIn December 2004, there was a death warrant out for Danny. The 55- year-old Houston native had a routine CT scan that revealed a tumor the size of a lime on his left lung. A biopsy showed that the tumor was malignant, a result of skin cancer that he had been diagnosed with almost four years before.
“They wanted to cut me from the middle of my back, all they way around to the front and remove the bottom part of my left lung,” said Danny. “Now that I was at Stage IV with melanoma, I figured once they started cutting on me that would be the end. Most of the people I knew who were that far advanced had died.”
Danny didn’t have the patience or the time to be sidelined by major surgery. He was president of a small oil and gas company that operates wells in South Texas and Alaska. He participated in competitive shotgun shooting and tennis, a sport he played professionally for a year in his early 20s.
That’s when his friend Pat Scranton stepped in. Pat, who was suffering from a rare form of cancer, told Danny that there were a number of treatment options that were not around when he was first diagnosed with melanoma and had a lymph node removed in 2001. One of those options was the CyberKnife® Robotic Radiosurgery System.
Danny sought a CyberKnife center in Houston, but there was none. The closest one was in Dallas at the Baylor Radiosurgery Center. There he met Dr. Brian Berger, a radiation oncologist, and became the first person in the United States to undergo the CyberKnife System’s lung tumor treatment protocol.
“Once I met Dr. Berger and he explained what the CyberKnife could do, I knew this was the treatment I wanted,” Danny said. “Being an experienced rifle shot, I know the importance of hitting the target. With regular surgery, it’s impossible for doctors to remove the entire tumor. But the CyberKnife is so accurate that it can get the legs and extensions of the tumor.”
In March 2005, Danny underwent three treatments with the CyberKnife System that each lasted about 90 minutes. During the treatment he wore a special vest with markers that helped his doctors target his tumor and hit it with radiation from 120 different angles.
Danny barely missed a day of work during his treatment. He was able to catch up on phone calls and e-mails each day, before and during his treatment sessions. And he was quickly able to resume his regular tennis matches.
“I had no reaction to anything. Nothing hurt. My hair didn’t fall out. I wasn’t sick and miserable,” said Danny. “Because it was a new technology, I was wondering if it was going to work. But I knew I could put my life in Dr. Berger’s hands. He can shoot that machine like Wyatt Earp can shoot a gun.”
Proof of the CyberKnife System’s accuracy and success in treating lung tumors was in Danny’s follow-up CT scans. After 30 days, his tumor had shrunk by 90 percent. And, in three months, the tumor was completely gone.
“After I found out I had the lung tumor, I said ‘I’m not dying. I refuse,’” he said. “You have to have an open mind and use every tool available to cure cancer. The CyberKnife was the neatest thing I ever saw. If I ever get another tumor, I’m not worried. I know exactly where to go to get it fixed.”
Danny is so impressed by the capabilities of the CyberKnife System that his goal is to establish a CyberKnife center in the Houston area. “The CyberKnife can save a lot of lives,” Danny added. “I made a deal with the Big Guy…if he’d keep me around awhile, I’d try to help save other lives. Every week I get calls from two or three people who have cancer, and I’ve always recommended that they check out the CyberKnife.”
As of the creation of this patient profile, Danny found his CyberKnife treatment to be successful.
Judith's StoryVideo Transcript
Judith, a busy real estate asset manager, mother and local volunteer was rushing to get to a routine chest scan scheduled right around the winter holidays in 2004. Due to overbookings at the hospital she was tempted to reschedule her appointment for a later date and return to the urgent calling of her “to-do” list. Luckily, the hospital technicians encouraged her to stay, and today she is thankful that she did.
Judith was diagnosed with stage IIIa lung cancer. She received 12 rounds of chemotherapy, 23 days of radiation therapy and surgery two weeks later to remove the upper lobe of her right lung. Her lung had trouble sealing following surgery which resulted in a 15-day hospital stay and four weeks of recovery at home. From the pathology report, some residual cancer was discovered leading her to undergo eight more rounds of chemotherapy. Judith hoped the worst of things were behind her and for almost three years they were.
Then in the summer of 2007 doctors found a recurrence of her cancer in a lymph node located deep in the center of Judith’s chest. Since she had already undergone surgery and received conventional radiation and given that the location of the cancer was close to sensitive, vital structures in her chest, her thoracic surgeon at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, CT, Dr. Thayer, suggested CyberKnife radiosurgery. Because of its extreme precision, the CyberKnife System is able to focus the radiation delivery on the tumor and avoid surrounding healthy tissue. This meant Judith was a candidate despite having previous radiation.
“The only thing I was nervous about was receiving more radiation since I had already received several rounds of conventional radiation. But I knew that the CyberKnife was precise in its radiation delivery and therefore wouldn’t kill any of my healthy surrounding lung tissue”.
Judith underwent four outpatient treatment sessions with the CyberKnife. She was amazed by how easy her treatments were, especially compared to her previous experiences with surgery and conventional radiation.
“The first time around, it was an eight month period of my life spent at the cancer center, so the second time, when I had the option to do four treatments over two weeks and be done, it was a no brainer,” said Judith. “With the CyberKnife there was no downtime and I didn’t experience any side effects. During the treatments I just lay comfortably on the treatment table and was able to watch the animal channel on a TV in the ceiling. It was a piece of cake compared to what I had been through already.”
Immediately following her CyberKnife treatments, Judith was able to resume her daily activities and got back to work right away. Nearly three years later Judith is doing well and has had no recurrences.
As of the creation of this patient profile, Judith found her CyberKnife treatment to be successful.
For 34-year-old Suzanne, nothing is more important than being the best mother possible to her young children. But in the fall of 2005, a discovery during a routine brain scan threatened to hinder the Phoenix, Ariz., mom’s ability to care for her children.
Several years before, doctors had discovered that Suzanne had a pineal cyst, a benign lesion in her brain that was causing no adverse symptoms. To ensure that the cyst did not grow or change, Suzanne had regular brain scans. However, as she was going in for an MRI in October 2005, Suzanne had a feeling that something was wrong, even though she was not experiencing any specific problems. She was right – the scan showed a growth in her brain, but it wasn’t the pineal cyst.
Suzanne had an acoustic neuroma, a typically slow-growing benign tumor that can cause hearing loss, facial numbness and/or paralysis and effect ones balance. “I was happy to know that it wasn’t cancer,” Suzanne said. “But when my doctor told me that the most common treatment was microsurgery, all I could think about was my kids – who were then three and one – and how their lives would be affected by my long recovery and the possibility that something could go permanently wrong.”
During the week between her diagnosis and the first appointment with a specialist, Suzanne spent many hours online learning more about acoustic neuromas. “I became more and more anxious,” she said. “I went from just wanting [the tumor] out of my head, to being terrified about having surgery.”
She knew that recovery from surgery could take several months, and that most likely she would lose hearing in her left ear. And there was great risk that she would have permanent facial paralysis and balance issues. “I wasn’t willing to take those risks because my children would have had to deal with a different mom,” she added.
As she began researching potential treatment options, she discovered that radiation was a possible alternative and that a new technology – the Accuray CyberKnife® Robotic Radiosurgery System – was being used to treat brain tumors. When Suzanne visited the neurologist, he said that she was a candidate for either radiation or surgery and referred her to a radiation oncologist. When Suzanne met with the first radiation oncologist a week later, he could offer her no information on the CyberKnife System. “He could only talk to me about the technology he had, and that I would have to undergo weeks of radiation treatment,” Suzanne said. “I was disappointed because when it came to the radiation treatment, I wanted the most accurate treatment available, so the cells surrounding the tumor wouldn’t be harmed.”
In the meantime, Suzanne sought more information from patients undergoing CyberKnife treatments for acoustic neuromas through the internet and patient support group website. And she learned that there was one in use in her hometown at St. Joseph’s Hospital’s Barrow Neurological Institute (BNI). “I knew I wanted the best technology out there,” she said. “When I came across CyberKnife one of the things I liked the most was that it’s noninvasive, it has amazing accuracy and it would be something that wouldn’t have an impact on my quality of life.”
She made an appointment with Dr. John J. Kresl, a radiation oncologist, and his team who were using the CyberKnife System and other radiosurgery systems at BNI. They all agreed with her decision in that the CyberKnife System was the best course of treatment for Suzanne.
By the time she began her CyberKnife treatments a month later, Suzanne knew exactly what to expect. Suzanne was impressed that Dr. Kresl’s team showed her the CyberKnife System and the computers that run it. They explained in great detail how it worked – that it detects the slightest motion of the patient or tumor and would readjust immediately so it could continue targeting the tumor with extreme accuracy. And they made sure she knew what to expect during her treatment sessions.
Prior to her treatment, Suzanne contacted the CyberKnife Patient Support Group, a community of patients who have been treated by the CyberKnife® System. “I was able to ask them detailed questions, such as how they felt afterward, and even something as silly as what to wear to my treatment,” Suzanne said. “There was a woman from Australia undergoing the treatment at Stanford during that time, and through the support group, I was able to follow her progress every day and discuss with her how she was feeling. It really prepared me.”
On a Friday in mid-December 2005, Suzanne had a CT scan and MRI to help doctors pinpoint the location of her tumor and plan her course of treatment. The next Monday she went in for the first treatment, which lasted one-and-a-half hours. She had two more treatments, lasting an hour each, on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Though she was a little tired after each treatment, she was still able to go home each day and interact with her children as usual. “I didn’t feel a thing,” Suzanne recalled. “You almost wonder if it’s really doing anything because it’s completely painless.”
But, in fact, the CyberKnife treatment was doing its job. In September 2006, her nine-month check-up showed signs that the tumor was dying. And, thankfully, Suzanne said, she has had none of the complications that are common when patients undergo microsurgery. She didn’t lose her hearing, her balance remains the same and she has no facial paralysis.
“The entire CyberKnife journey was very easy,” Suzanne said. “My quality of life never changed, and for me, that was a big deal because I didn’t want my children’s lives to be different. There are others I know, who have had the same type of tumor and opted for microsurgery. But they have had completely different outcomes, and every day is hard for them. I feel almost guilty that the whole process has been so easy for me.”
Suzanne added that she now knows she can not take anything for granted. “You just never know when your life may change. I had no reason to believe that anything was wrong with me,” she said. “Now I try to make the most out of my time with my family and my kids.”
In December 2010 Suzanne went in for her five year, post-CyberKnife check-up and received a great report. "Everything is as it should be - all is well! So thankful and feel so blessed to have had CyberKnife to treat my tumor."
As of the creation of this patient profile, Suzanne found her CyberKnife treatment to be successful.
What he thought was an ordinary drive home from watching a spring training baseball game in Ft. Myers, Fla., turned out to be a defining moment in Scott’s life.
On March 24, 2006, Scott, his wife Cathy and a couple of friends enjoyed an afternoon watching the New York Yankees take on the Minnesota Twins. While returning home to Naples, Fla., Scott answered a call on his cell phone from his urologist, Dr. David Spellberg.
Just a couple months before, Scott had been referred to Dr. Spellberg because, during a routine physical, his family physician discovered that Scott’s Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) level had gone up by more than a point and a half, to 3.68, in just a year. That fateful March day, Dr. Spellberg called with Scott’s biopsy results. He had prostate cancer. “I was devastated,” said Scott, who had just turned 61. “I thought I was too healthy and too young. I thought I was invincible and that there was no way my biopsy would show cancer.”
At the time of his diagnosis, Scott had been retired for about six years and was enjoying fly fishing, golfing and traveling with his wife. He had four young grandchildren who he expected to spend time with as they grew up. “As a doctor, I imagined the worst possible outcome,” he said. “I was afraid it was one of the types of prostate cancer that might spread quickly.”
After taking a few days to deal emotionally with his diagnosis, Scott began extensive research on prostate cancer and the various treatments. He spoke with a number of prostate cancer patients about their treatments and the problems they encountered. He conferred with several internists and urologists. He also spoke with his youngest son, a cardiology resident in Boston, who asked his colleagues about their thoughts on the options available to his father. Around the same time, one of Scott’s friends attended a prostate cancer seminar at Naples Community Hospital and brought him back information about the CyberKnife® Robotic Radiosurgery System.
“When I read the brochure, I was excited to talk more to Dr. Spellberg about whether I was a candidate for the CyberKnife,” Scott recalled. Together they decided that CyberKnife treatment was the best option to meet Scott’s needs.
“What convinced me to choose this treatment were two main things. The first was the sub-millimeter precision of the radiation beam. The second was how the CyberKnife technology can detect slight motion of the prostate during treatment and then stop to recalibrate. These features enable the tumor to be treated accurately, with little risk of radiation to the normal adjacent tissues,” he said. The convenience of needing just five days of treatment was an additional factor that appealed to him. “Once I made the decision to go ahead with the CyberKnife, I felt a calmness and relief that I wouldn’t have to deal with the potential serious complications.”
On April 27, 2006, Scott had a CT scan and MRI so that Dr. Jay Friedland, a radiation oncologist, could locate the 40 gram tumor and develop a treatment plan. Treatment with the CyberKnife System began on May 8 at Naples Community Hospital and lasted for five consecutive days. “Each session lasted about an hour, and throughout the treatment I was able to relax and listen to my own music in a pleasant room,” Scott said. “And after the treatment with the CyberKnife was finished, I rested for no more than a day and then resumed my normal activities.”
The treatment didn’t slow Scott down. Scott said that although he was told to expect fatigue, he never felt overly tired. Only in the short-term did he experience urinary urgency and a one-day bout of diarrhea immediately after his course of treatment was complete. Just two days after the treatment ended, he was back out on the golf course, playing 18 holes with his friends.
The results of CyberKnife treatment exceeded Scott’s expectations. Within six months of his treatment, Scott’s PSA level was down to 0.7, and seven years later has gone even lower, averaging between 0.1 and 0.4 at his regular check-ups.
“If the patient is the right candidate,” Scott added, “the decision to go with the CyberKnife is a no-brainer.”
As of the completion of this patient profile, Scott found his CyberKnife treatment to be successful.
Charles knew just who to turn to when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. His daughter Janice isn’t a surgeon or a urologist, but she is a radiation therapist who works everyday with cancer patients at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas.
In January 2007, 71-year old Charles – who with his wife Dorothy spends his winters in Fort Mojave, Ariz., and summers in Negley, Ohio, near where he raised his family – learned that he might have prostate cancer. A routine physical showed that Charles’ prostate specific antigen levels had risen considerably since his last examination. His doctor told him this could be indicative of prostate cancer. A biopsy in May confirmed his worst fears. “I was scared to death,” said Charles.
His family doctor presented several treatment options, including a relatively new procedure with a CyberKnife® Robotic Radiosurgery System, a groundbreaking non-invasive treatment that delivers radiation in high doses over a short period of about one week. “I told the doctor, I know where I can get that done – Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas,” said Charles. The doctor warned that he may face a long wait to see a specialist for evaluation for such a specialized treatment. But, much to the doctor’s surprise – and with a little help from his daughter Janice – Charles had an appointment scheduled for his treatments just a few weeks later.
As fate or luck would have it, Janice was one of a handful of radiation therapists who had trained on the CyberKnife System. Janice had seen radiation oncologists for more than a decade successfully treat tumors with the CyberKnife throughout the body, including the head, spine and lung. And now Baylor Dallas was about to begin providing the CyberKnife System as treatment for prostate cancer.
Janice asked the doctors if her father could be the first patient. “I told them that he needed to come here because I wanted to make sure it was done right,” said Janice. “A lot of people asked how I could treat my father, but I wanted him to come to Baylor because I wanted to be sure it was done right.” she added. “It reinforced the confidence I have in the CyberKnife technology. If I didn’t believe in it completely, I wouldn’t be recommending it to my dad.”
Charles admits he was a little nervous to be the first patient treated for prostate cancer with Baylor’s CyberKnife System. But he took solace in the fact that prostate cancer treatments with the CyberKnife System were being done successfully at other facilities around the country.
One month after receiving a prostate cancer diagnosis – and just a few days before Father’s Day – radiation oncologist Brian Berger, M.D., started treatment on Charles’ cancer. Dr. Berger’s treatment plan consisted of CyberKnife radiosurgery for five consecutive days with each treatment lasting about one hour.
“I had never had radiation, so I didn’t know what to expect,” Charles said. The treatment was amazing. It’s like an X-ray; you feel nothing.” Charles also was pleased that he had no side effects afterward from the CyberKnife treatment. “I had no impotency, no urination problems, no burns, no problems whatsoever,” he stated.
Within days of his treatment, Charles and Dorothy, his wife of 50 years, were back on the road in their RV to spend another summer in Ohio.
As of the creation of this patient profile, Charles found his CyberKnife treatment to be successful.