May is National Brain Cancer Awareness Month and Here’s What you Should Know…
Your diagnosis requires brain surgery. These are words no one wants to hear.
But advanced technology at Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center is making it possible for some patients to achieve dramatic results with a painless, noninvasive treatment method called Gamma Knife Icon. Highly accurate, the procedure is quick and involves no cutting.
Denise Bennett knows first-hand Gamma Knife Icon’s effectiveness. In 2021, Bennett experienced a head injury due to a fall. An MRI revealed a subdural hematoma, which was successfully treated surgically, but it also showed a benign meningioma, the most common type of brain tumor.
“One of the options that was presented to me was Gamma Knife Icon,” said Bennett, 55, Deputy Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) and a mother of three. “While it was benign, I had a family history of brain cancer, and I didn’t want to worry about it.”
Moreover, Bennett is a widow, having lost her husband in 2012.
“That was all the more reason for me to stay healthy,” she said.
Bennett was sent to Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center radiation oncologist Dr. Konstantin “Kos” Kovtun, a credentialed Gamma Knife Icon physician who joined the cancer center in 2018 from his previous post at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Working with a team that also included Bennett’s neurosurgeon and a medical physicist, Kovtun developed a treatment plan that would irradiate Bennett’s meningioma and gradually over time reduce its size.
“Gamma Knife is a form of stereotactic radiosurgery,” Kovtun says. “It’s very focused. Traditionally you had two options for something like this, surgery or whole brain radiation, which came with a number of side effects. This is very focused.”
Mary Bird Perkins recently marked a major milestone in treating 1,000 patients using Gamma Knife Icon. The Cancer Center has offered the latest version of the revolutionary technology at its Essen Lane location since 2016. Used to treat a wide variety of brain tumors and neurological disorders, including complex cases, the innovative method delivers treatment only to the affected brain tissue. Its precision keeps the surrounding tissue intact and unaffected, enabling many patients to resume their normal routines almost immediately.
A chemical engineer, Bennett was fascinated by the science behind the procedure. She researched it on her own and was encouraged by what she learned about its effectiveness and ease.
Prior to the treatment, a plastic mold was made of Bennett’s head, which she wore during the procedure to stabilize her head’s position. The process was quick and painless.
“I slept through most of the procedure,” Bennett says. “I took a Children’s Benadryl, and it was over in about 15 minutes.”
Gamma Knife Icon
Kovtun follows up with each of his patients to closely monitor how the tumor is dissipating. Many patients require just one treatment, but others might have several. The cancer center’s team of radiation oncologists have overseen more than 2,000 individual procedures to date.
Following her successful procedure, Bennett was able to resume her normal activities, including taking care of children and continuing her work as LDEQ’s first Black female deputy secretary.
“It was extremely comforting to my family and me to have access to the most advanced technology in tumor treatment available right here in the great State of Louisiana,” Bennett said. “To have this procedure performed in my hometown meant that my family was not troubled with traveling out of state and making lodging accommodations. An added benefit was that I remained surrounded by a larger support base of family and friends.”
For more information on Gamma Knife Icon, visit marybird.org/gammaknife.