New option for treating inoperable brain tumors

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Brain cancer can be very difficult to treat. Some tumors are inoperable. There is a new option in Kansas City for people who have those tumors deep in the brain.

Suzanne Paddock of Overland Park was jolted by the news in April. She had brain cancer, a high-grade astrocytoma.

"It was very shocking. When we left the office, I asked my husband -- I'm numb. I can't even tell if we're walking to the car or not," said Paddock.

One tumor was near the surface of the brain. Standard surgery removed it. But there was another tumor deeper in the brain that the surgeon couldn't reach without damaging vision and speech.

Dr. Darren Lovick of St. Luke's Neuroscience Institute recommended Suzanne have a new procedure called NeuroBlate. In the operating room, he drilled a hole in the skull and placed a frame over it. Then Paddock was wheeled into the MRI suite.

"A motor is attached followed by this very fine laser," he said as he showed the probe. "This is the part that goes inside the brain."

Dr. Lovick goes to the next room where he can see the laser probe and tumor on MRI. He fires the laser from the console. The probe delivers heat on one side to destroy the tumor while cooling and protecting normal tissue on the other side. Paddock says she's had no ill effects.

"It just blows my mind you can do something like that," she said.

Dr. Lovick says there's no hard data yet on the effectiveness of NeuroBlate although it appears to be as good as standard surgery. It is not curative.

"No, these tumors infiltrate," the neurosurgeon said.

They can get into other brain tissue. He thinks NeuroBlate can extend life and improve the quality of life.

Paddock wants others with inoperable brain tumors to know there's new hope.

"I'm very hopeful about it and I'm excited about it," she said.

Paddock is also having chemotherapy and radiation.

The procedure is done under general anesthesia just like surgery. But the doctor says hospital stay and recovery are shorter because it's less invasive. Risks include swelling of the brain.

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