Treating a Meningioma
A meningioma is the most common type of head tumor. It is not technically considered a brain tumor as it forms around the meninges, or the membranes around the brain and spinal cord. Most meningiomas are benign and may not require immediate treatment, but some cases can be aggressive and may require meningioma surgery, stereotactic radiosurgery and/or fractionated radiotherapy.
Neurosurgeons typically remove a meningioma by performing stereotactic radiosurgery with either Gamma Knife or a CyberKnife. You do have a choice in treatment, so it is important to understand the benefits of both methods before developing a treatment plan with your doctor.
What is Gamma Knife?
Contrary to its name, a Gamma Knife procedure is not an invasive surgical procedure and does not make actual incisions. Instead, 192 or 201 small beams of gamma rays are aimed at the meningioma in order to shrink or destroy the tumor by shutting off its blood flow. The radiation is targeted high-dose, and healthy tissue is only minimally affected by the process. In fact, Gamma Knife radiosurgery has been the standard of care for almost four decades and has been used to treat more than 400,000 meningioma cases worldwide.
What is CyberKnife?
The Accuray CyberKnife is one brand name of a linear accelerator or LINAC machine. It treats a meningioma by focusing photons (X-rays) at the tumor. It may reduce or eliminate a tumor in just a few treatment sessions. CyberKnife is a more recent invention but has been the choice of some neurosurgeons in recent years.
What’s the Difference: Gamma Knife vs Cyberknife for Meningioma
Both options offer proven advantages, but they differ when it comes to accuracy and comfort. Below are some differences in Gamma Knife and Cyberknife:
Surgical Tool Design
Gamma Knife was designed for non-invasive brain surgery and delivers little radiation outside of the target area. In contrast, CyberKnife was designed for other purposes in addition to brain surgery and has a robotic arm that minimizes the effect of patient movement during the procedure. It delivers 100x more radiation to the body than the Gamma Knife does.
Patient Comfort and Convenience
Gamma Knife practitioners attach a head frame to the patient’s head to prevent movement during the procedure. CyberKnife allows the surgeon to use non-rigid immobilization instead. They use a face mask that is then literally shrink-wrapped to the treatment table.
Gamma Knife radiosurgery could take as little as one treatment session depending on your treatment plan and condition. While CyberKnife often requires multiple visits that are spread out over several weeks. For some patients, multiple treatment trips are a hardship.
Overview of Gamma Knife vs. CyberKnife: Meningioma
Both methods deliver effective treatment, but Gamma Knife requires fewer sessions. Plus, it has a long, proven history of success, and our doctors consider it the “gold standard” of care for treating cancer, non-malignant tumors and illnesses of the brain. CyberKnife is also effective and patient-friendly in terms of comfort. It is slightly more versatile in what it can treat, but both are great options for treating meningioma.
Where to Go From Here
Understanding your condition and all available treatment options is very important before making a decision on your course of care. There are a number of resources available to help educate yourself on meningiomas, including information on side effects, risks and recovery from treatment. Talk to your doctor about what would be best for you and your specific needs.
If you would like to learn more about Gamma Knife radiosurgery as a treatment option for a meningioma, contact The Valley Gamma Knife Center, and a Nurse Navigator will be glad to speak to you about possible next steps.