Gamma Knife Surgery for Brain Mets: What to Expect
We asked our awesome member, @illimae, to share her first-hand experience with receiving Gamma Knife surgery for brain metastases in order to help others feel more at ease with this intimidating treatment. We are grateful for Illimae's willingness to share and we hope you find this helpful!
Gamma Knife for Brain Metastasis
Gamma Knife is a type of precision-targeted SRS (Stereotactic Radiosurgery) often used to treat minimal brain tumors, usually less than five but as many as 15-20 in some cases.
The procedure begins with the fitting of a metal head frame or a plastic mesh mask. The mask is initially soft and form-fitting, but hardens quickly for a secure fit and is claustrophobic for many. The metal head frame requires numbing medication injected into your head (2 shots in front, 2 in back) where the frame's pins will secure the frame to your skull. This process is the most anxiety-inducing and painful (due to the injections) part, so Xanax, Ativan or something similar is highly recommended, especially if you are needle-phobic.
Once numbed, doctors screw the pins in place but you shouldn't feel anything more than pressure at that point. This isn't very pleasant, but you can get through it and it's necessary. The frame will feel like you're wearing a heavy hat, but you'll adjust after a few minutes.
From there, a nurse will transport you to the treatment room via bed or wheelchair, you'll then lay on the table and the frame will be bolted down. It is important that you are completely immobilized, so there's no movement during radiation.
The actual procedure is similar to an MRI without the noise and lasts about 20-60 minutes, depending on the number of spots being treated.
Once complete, the frame will be removed and bandages applied. You may have small wounds at the pin sites, those will heal and should disappear within a few weeks.
Gamma Knife is often highly successful, works best over time (3-9 months) and is repeatable to new spots that may pop up later.