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Gamma Knife Patient Story

“The Gamma Knife treated my brain tumor in 20 minutes.”

Testimonial by Ron Johnson, Brain Cancer Survivor

Back in 2011, Ron Johnson was successfully treated at Methodist Hospitals for two brain tumors. Then, eight years later, a routine scan revealed another new, small tumor. In both cases, Johnson was treated with the Gamma Knife, which delivers focused radiotherapy to treat tumors within the brain without affecting the surrounding brain tissue.

Johnson’s initial tumors resulted from lung cancer, which was treated in 2009, but had metastasized. At that time, his coworkers noticed behaviors suggesting something wasn’t right – he was dragging his foot when he walked and pulling a clipboard back every time his boss reached for it. His coworkers made sure he got home safely and urged him to seek medical attention.

At Methodist Hospitals emergency room, Johnson received a prompt diagnosis of brain cancer. His doctors recommended the Gamma Knife to remove the tumors in 2011. It was ultimately used to successfully remove two cancerous tumors in Johnson’s brain. “Everything looked great in my follow-ups for eight years and then they found a small tumor,” Johnson said.

Once again, Johnson’s Methodist Hospitals doctors recommended the Gamma Knife. The procedure took place within a week, this time with a new generation of the Gamma Knife technology. In January 2019, Methodist acquired the Gamma Knife Perfexion, the latest generation of this radiosurgery technology, a $3.5 million investment. Johnson could tell the difference. “The new Gamma Knife is awesome,” Johnson said. “It’s much easier and much more comfortable and quiet.”

Everything is computerized on the new Gamma Knife which means the radiation sources do not require manual adjustment.“The Perfexion saves time and is more comfortable for the patient,” said Johnson’s neurosurgeon, Hayder Jaffer, MD. “Because of the computerization there is less room for human error.”

Contrary to what the name implies, there is no knife involved in Gamma Knife radiosurgery and there is no surgery. The machine delivers a precise, targeted dose of radiation, sparing healthy tissue. “The beauty of the Gamma Knife is it can treat multiple lesions in one session, which is not the case with surgery,” Dr. Jaffer said. “There is no cutting and procedures are all outpatient versus a 6-hour surgical operation in which the patient is hospitalized for five to ten days.”

Dr. Jaffer explained that the Gamma Knife treats patients with all types of brain tumors up to three centimeters in size. It can also be used to treat those with trigeminal neuralgia, as well as all types of arteriovenous malformation. “As diagnostic tools become more advanced, lesions can be detected earlier and we can treat them before they are larger and require surgery,” Dr. Jaffer said. “I had no recovery time with the tumor being so small,” Johnson said. “I could have played golf the same day. The next day I was cutting grass and doing my normal things.” “A lot of people don’t know you can have this done right here in Northwest Indiana,” Johnson added, “instead of going to Chicago or a place like Mayo Clinic.”

This investment in the latest Gamma Knife technology is further evidence of Methodist Hospital’s commitment to lead the way to better health in Northwest Indiana. “These technologies are in big centers and university hospitals,” said Dr. Jaffer. ”To have a Gamma Knife here at Methodist Hospitals is a great benefit for our community.”

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