Brain Tumor Survivor Thankful for Gamma Knife Treatment
Eric Schuetz with his wife, Julie
Eric Schuetz is a pharmacist who works in the Maryland Poison Center at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. He is also a cancer survivor who underwent treatment for a brain tumor at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center in 2003. This spring, Eric and his wife, Julie, ran in the 2010 Maryland Half Marathon, a 13.1 mile race to benefit the cancer center.
My cancer journey began in the spring of 2003, when I went for a follow-up MRI of my head for a previous, non-cancerous pituitary tumor. While I had no symptoms and felt completely normal, the test revealed a large mass in the left frontal lobe of my brain.
My neurosurgeon at that time was Lawrence Chin, M.D. He ordered a specialized scan called an MR Spectroscopy. This type of scan is used to differentiate between benign and malignant tumors. Unfortunately, my scan results were concerning, and so a few days later, a biopsy was done. The pathology report showed that the tumor was indeed cancer, so Dr. Chin performed surgery to remove the mass. He felt confident that he was able to successfully remove the entire tumor.
The final pathology results showed an unfavorable grade 2 astrocytoma, a type of tumor that starts from cells called astrocytes found throughout the brain and spinal cord.
Dr. Chin consulted with William Regine, M.D., chief of radiation Oncology and a member of the Brain Tumor Center team at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center. Dr. Regine is a pioneer in the use of fractionated Gamma Knife Radiosurgery for brain tumors. They recommended radiation for the area where the tumor had been, and a treatment plan was agreed upon that was designed to give me the best chance of preventing a recurrence of the cancer.
I had Gamma Knife treatment on two consecutive days, then six weeks of daily partial brain external beam radiation. This was followed by another two days of Gamma Knife treatment. The treatment regimen was based on a clinical trial design led by Dr. Regine.
While Gamma Knife is often done on an outpatient basis, I was hospitalized for the two days for my treatment, primarily as a precaution, but also so I could receive IV pain medicine. Although typically there is not a lot of pain involved with Gamma Knife, I had severe headaches, possibly because the stabilizing frame was in place for an extended period of time in my case. The pain medication was very effective, and once the frame was removed, the pain was immediately relieved.
I received my external bean radiation as an outpatient, Monday to Friday for six weeks, in the Department of Radiation Oncology. Luckily, I work nearby the medical center campus, so that once I was up to returning to work, getting my treatments was very convenient.
I am happy to report that I have so far continued to be cancer-free at each six month follow-up visit. Also happily, almost all of my hair grew back after the treatments!
I am extremely grateful for the great care I received from everyone on my journey -- my wife, my family and friends, but most especially, the team of outstanding nurses, doctors, and staff of the Greenebaum Cancer Center.
For more information about the Brain Tumor Center at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center, or Gamma Knife Radiosurgery, call 1-800-888-8823.