Your doctor may recommend Gamma Knife radiosurgery to treat your meningioma. Knowing what to expect afterward can help you prepare mentally and physically for meningioma recovery.
Learning you have a meningioma can be difficult, but educating yourself and asking questions is a powerful way to play an active role in your care. Whether you already have your procedure scheduled or are still exploring treatment options, knowing what to expect can help set your mind at ease. And that’s so important for you right now.
Though your personal doctor will be the best person to discuss your individual treatment experience, understanding the process on a general level will help you in your future conversations. To help you learn more, the following information explains how Gamma Knife radiosurgery can be used to treat a meningioma and what the recovery process is like.
About Your Meningioma
A meningioma is a tumor that develops from the meninges, a thin layer of tissue that covers the brain and spinal cord. Most meningiomas are benign, which means they are not cancerous. However, 1-2% of meningiomas are malignant and can be very aggressive. Meningiomas occur more frequently in women and typically develop during middle age. However, malignant meningiomas occur more often in men.
It’s important to note that a benign meningioma is not the same thing as harmless. Even a benign tumor can put pressure on neighboring brain tissues, blood vessels and nerves. This can lead to symptoms and necessitate treatment. Meningiomas can also change over time, so your doctor may recommend treatment in the future, even if it is not necessary right now.
Understanding Gamma Knife Radiosurgery
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is one meningioma treatment option available in the tri-state area. The name is a little misleading because the procedure has nothing to do with surgery, scalpels or incisions. Rather, it’s an advanced form of radiation therapy that utilizes a minimally invasive approach to shrink your tumor. There is no hospital stay for meningioma recovery, and some patients require only a single treatment session.
Using 192 individual beams of low-dose radiation, your doctor can target an area with very high precision – within 0.15 mm, which is the width of a single human hair. This avoids dosing surrounding healthy tissues, resulting in fewer unpleasant side effects than traditional radiation therapy. The result is a safe, effective treatment that can be used alone or in combination with surgery.
Benefits and Risks of Gamma Knife Radiosurgery
Before making any treatment recommendations, your doctor will review the risks and benefits of the available options. He or she will discuss these with you at an individual level. However, having a general understanding can be helpful.
Benefits of Gamma Knife radiosurgery for meningioma include:
- You are awake the entire time
- Minimally invasive procedure, with no incisions
- No hospital stay
- No surgical risks
- Brief and mild recovery, with most patients back to normal activity levels in a day or two
- Can be combined with surgery if necessary
Risks of Gamma Knife radiosurgery for meningioma include:
- Headache, fatigue and nausea for a day or two after treatment, treatable with medication
- Delayed swelling of the brain six months after treatment, also treatable with medication
- Itching or discomfort for a few days at the head frame pin sites on the scalp
- Delayed swelling of the brain approximately six months after treatment (treatable with medication)
Meningioma Recovery After Gamma Knife Radiosurgery
Your recovery is going to be a very personal process. It will depend on your comprehensive treatment plan and your overall health, as well as the size, location and grade of your meningioma. But again, having a basic idea of what many patients will experience will give you an idea of what you can expect.
Immediately after your treatment, you might feel a little tired. Some patients experience headaches and nausea, but your doctor can prescribe medications to help you feel more comfortable. Overall, meningioma recovery following Gamma Knife radiosurgery is typically brief, and most patients are back to work and other activities within a day or two.
Some patients will require multiple sessions of Gamma Knife radiosurgery for meningioma. This will depend on the size and location of your tumor. You can expect to have follow-up visits with your doctor to monitor your progress and meningioma recovery. Some patients may experience delayed swelling of the brain following treatment. This will vary depending on the individual case. Should this occur, your doctor will prescribe medication to resolve your symptoms.
Continue the Discussion Regarding Your Care
You’re doing yourself a great service by learning as much as you can about your condition and the treatment options available in northern NJ. It’s important you don’t stop here. As you learn, take notes of questions you have about your individual condition. Bring them up with your personal doctor at your next appointment. He or she will be able to address any concerns you may have and provide the answers you need to rest easy.