What to Expect with Gamma Knife Radiosurgery: A Patient’s Perspective

Last winter, I had a sudden-onset headache. My primary care physician sent me to a specialist, who ordered multiple scans, and the next thing I knew, I was being told I had a meningioma, a benign brain tumor.

As soon as I met Dr. Prasad, I knew I was in the right hands. He explained that Gamma Knife radiosurgery is an innovative treatment that could eradicate my tumor. Despite the name, it’s actually not a knife, and it doesn't involve cutting or incisions. Rather, it’s a form of targeted, minimally invasive radiation treatment.

After scheduling my Gamma Knife treatment, I was confident in my medical team but still a little apprehensive and afraid. My wife was extremely anxious and even more scared. She didn’t want anything to happen to me and just wanted to make sure I would be okay. My one daughter was in college at the time and wanted to come home for the treatment.

However, I truly believed in my team. They had all the confidence in the world and gave me enough reassurance so that I could reassure my family. On the day of the appointment, my youngest daughter drove me in. We were all a little nervous, but the process progressed pretty quickly.

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After getting prepped, I was given a fentanyl lollipop, which helped me relax. From there on out, I was calm and happy! I received Novocain in a few spots around my head where the helmet pins would go (this stung a little, but not too bad) and was put on an IV. Then the team secured the helmet on my head. It hurt a little bit when they were poking the pins in, but the discomfort lasted only seconds.

Next I went into the procedure room, where the radiation would be directed into my brain. The helmet was attached to the table to ensure extreme precision. I closed my eyes and even dozed off sometimes. The nurses and doctors talked to me through headphones, giving me constant updates and letting me know it was all going well. It took about 76 minutes total.

Overall, my experience was great, and I truly felt taken care of. My nurse—I wish I could remember his name—was by my side the entire time. It was much appreciated and made it easier for my whole family. The recovery also wasn’t bad. I was only out of commission the day of the procedure and the day after. Then I went back to work.

I would tell another patient who’s about to be treated with Gamma Knife radiosurgery that it’s normal to be apprehensive and afraid. But for me, the pain was nominal, and I was not that uncomfortable. Just be aware that your head might stay numb for days or weeks. And most important, find a great support team. It was so important to have my family there for me throughout it all.

Editor’s Note: Cancer patient outcomes and experiences may vary, even for those with the same type of cancer. An individual patient’s story should not be used as a prediction of how another patient will respond to treatment. Roswell Park is transparent about the survival rates of our patients as compared to national standards, and provides this information, when available, within the cancer type sections of this website.