Metastatic brain tumors originate from cancer elsewhere in the body, and spread through the lymph system to the brain. Often, by the time they are found, they are unable to be treated with traditional surgical techniques — or open surgery poses too great a risk to the patient. Gamma Knife radiosurgery, a noninvasive treatment that uses highly focused irradiation, is one of the most effective treatments for metastatic brain tumors, thanks to its consistent and reproducible results. The procedure provides between 84 and 97 percent local tumor control, while also sparing surrounding healthy brain tissue and structures. Rocky Mountain Gamma Knife Center’s team of Gamma Knife-certified neurosurgeons and radiation oncologists have used this innovative procedure to treat more than 5,500 patients.
First introduced in 1967, Gamma Knife surgery was developed specifically to treat brain disorders. It isn’t actually surgery, but a precisely targeted delivery of a single, high dose of radiation directly to the tumor site. Often called stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS), Gamma Knife is a noninvasive treatment option for metastatic brain tumors as well as 30 other types of brain disorders, including meningiomas (benign brain tumors), acoustic neuromas, and trigeminal neuralgia.
Gamma Knife treatment offers extreme accuracy, efficiency, and outstanding therapeutic response. Its precise delivery means that healthy tissue is spared any radiation damage. It is considered the best treatment option for many types of brain disorders because it requires no general anesthesia or incision; causes almost no pain; has a quick recovery time; and eliminates many of the potential side effects of traditional surgery, such as infection and bleeding.
Each year, about 50,000 people undergo Gamma Knife surgery in hundreds of leading hospitals and clinics around the world. Thousands of peer-reviewed medical articles support the outcomes and benefits of this unique procedure, earning it greater clinical acceptance than any other noninvasive treatment for brain disorders.
The Gamma Knife is designed specifically to treat brain disorders. Computer imaging and an MRI scan of the brain are used to precisely map the outline of the metastatic brain tumor or tumors. That imaging helps the surgeon deliver gamma rays to a precise target, delivering an intense, highly focused dose of radiation directly to the tumor. This helps ensure that the cancerous tissue receives the highest dose of radiation possible, while sparing surrounding healthy brain tissue. Gamma Knife surgery is best suited for tumors that are 3 to 4 centimeters or smaller. Patients with multiple brain tumors can be treated by Gamma Knife in one or sometimes several sessions.
Gamma Knife stereotactic radiosurgery is one of the most effective treatments for many metastatic brain tumors, and often the treatment option with the fewest side effects and lowest risk of complications. It is now the first choice for many patients and often the only option for patients whose hard-to-reach tumors were once considered inoperable.
Gamma Knife surgery successfully treats between 84 and 97 percent of metastatic brain tumors. Single or multiple tumors that are 3 to 4 centimeters or smaller can be treated with Gamma Knife. Although linear accelerator (LINAC) radiosurgery is often presented as a comparable substitute for Gamma Knife and has been in existence for about the same length of time, thousands of research studies have shown the outstanding outcomes achieved with Gamma Knife. The most relevant research studies include:
Lippitz, B.; Lindquist, C.; Paddick, I.; Peterson, D.; O’Neill, K.; Beaney, R. Stereotactic radiosurgery in the treatment of brain metastases: The current evidence. Cancer Treatment Reviews. February 2014.
Harris, K.B.; Corbett, M.R.; Mascarenhas, H.; Lee, K.S.; Arastu, H.; Leinweber, C.; Ju, A.W. A single-institution analysis of 126 patients treated with stereotactic radiosurgery for brain metastases. Frontiers in Oncology. May 2017.
Matsunaga, S.; Shuto, T.; Kawahara, N.; Suenaga, J.; Inomori, S.; Fujino, H. Gamma Knife surgery for metastatic brain tumors from primary breast cancer: Treatment indication based on number of tumors and breast cancer phenotype. Journal of Neurosurgery. December 2010.
Brown, P.D.; Ballman, K.V.; Cerhan, J.H.; Anderson, S.K.; Carrero, X.W.; Whitton, A.C.; Greenspoon, J.; Parney, I.F.; Laack, N.N.I.; Ashman, J.B.; Bahary, J.P.; Hadjipanayis, C.G.; Urbanic, J.J.; Barker, F.G., 2nd; Farace, E.; Khuntia, D.; Giannini, C.; Buckner, J.C.; Galanis, E.; Roberge, D. Postoperative stereotactic radiosurgery compared with whole brain radiotherapy for resected metastatic brain disease (NCCTG N107C/CEC·3): A multicentre, randomised, controlled, phase 3 trial. The Lancet Oncology. August 2017.
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is one of the most effective treatments for metastatic brain tumors. Gamma Knife treatment provides between 84 and 97 percent local tumor control.
Benefits of Gamma Knife treatment for metastatic brain tumors include:
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is best suited for patients who:
Patients with multiple brain tumors can be treated by Gamma Knife in one or sometimes several sessions.
If you or a loved one has metastatic brain cancer, you should seek a second opinion from a neurosurgeon trained in Gamma Knife radiosurgery. The team of specialists at Rocky Mountain Gamma Knife Center can review your medical history and discuss treatment options with you to determine whether Gamma Knife surgery is right for you. We also consult with your oncologist to ensure continuity of care.
Patients diagnosed with metastatic brain tumors will typically be able to meet with a Rocky Mountain Gamma Knife neurosurgeon within two to three weeks of contacting our office. They’ll have an initial consultation, and if they are a candidate for treatment with Gamma Knife, they’ll undergo pre-procedure imaging, to determine the precise location of the tumor or tumors where the radiation dose will be directed. The day before the procedure, patients are asked not to eat or drink anything after midnight. The procedure typically takes less than an hour, during which:
The head frame used during Gamma Knife radiosurgery for metastatic brain tumors will be removed immediately after the procedure, and dressing may be applied. Patients are typically transported to the hospital for several hours of observation, during which the local anesthetic will wear off. This often leads to a headache, so we recommend that patients receive medication for headache shortly after arriving to the hospital floor. The full day at the center and hospital is typically eight to 10 hours. Before patients are discharged, we want to make sure they can eat without experiencing nausea, and that they are relatively comfortable. A patient may be admitted for an overnight stay on physician’s orders, but that is rare.
Following Gamma Knife treatment, our physicians will communicate with your oncologist and provide a copy of all medical records. You will be referred back to your treating oncologist who will continue to oversee your care. There are no side effects from the Gamma Knife treatment. So, depending on your condition relative to your main cancer treatment, you may be able to resume normal activities immediately. We will work with your oncologist to determine a plan for follow-up if needed.
Rocky Mountain Gamma Knife Center performed the region’s first Gamma Knife procedure in 1993. Since then, it has become the Rocky Mountain West’s most experienced center for stereotactic radiosurgery. The expert clinical team of neurosurgeons and radiation oncologists have a combined 200 years of experience in treating neurological disorders.
Rocky Mountain Gamma Knife Center provides Gamma Knife treatment for metastatic brain tumors as well as 30 other benign brain diseases and neurovascular disorders, including meningiomas, acoustic neuromas, and the debilitating facial pain known as trigeminal neuralgia. So far, the center has used stereotactic radiosurgery to treat more than 5,500 patients.
Treatment for metastatic brain tumors with Gamma Knife radiosurgery is covered by most insurance.
You can schedule an appointment to talk with a Rocky Mountain Gamma Knife Center nurse or get more information about Gamma Knife treatment for metastatic brain tumors by filling out our online form or calling 303-569-8827.
Fill out this form to request a phone consultation with one of our nurse specialists to discuss your situation and whether you are a candidate for treatment.