The Brain and Spine Institute is made up of experts in the field of neuroscience in order to bring patients the best healthcare in East Tennessee for a full range of neurological diseases and disorders.
“Second chances these days, are so hard to come by….” The sweet words of George Strait* poured through the speakers and flooded the room. Ted could almost forget what he was doing—having lung cancer surgery that would give him his second chance.
Theodore “Ted” Cope, a resident of Knoxville, Tenn., suffered a stroke on his 60th birthday in 1999 that left his left side numb and weak. In 2006, Ted was preparing for his triple bypass at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. Like everyone else, his pre-op workup included a CT scan. However, when the results came back, doctors found something unexpected—a nodule in his lung. After additional tests, Ted learned the nodule was cancer.
Ted, age 67, who had one completely blocked artery, high cholesterol, high blood pressure (hypertension) and a heavy smoker, needed to concentrate on his bypass surgery and recovery. Doctors suggested that they address the lung cancer when he recovered from the bypass.
By September 2006, Ted was strong enough to undergo treatment for lung cancer. Ted and his wife, Judith, spoke with Dr. Raymond A. Dieter, III, a cardiothoracic surgeon at UT Medical Center. Dr. Dieter participates in thte weekly Pulmonary Conference at UT Medical Center’s Cancer Institute where doctors and other healthcare providers meet to discuss patient cases and determine the best treatment plan. Dr. Dieter presented Ted’s case and discussed viable lung cancer treatment options with other cancer specialists. “I was impressed when Dr. Dieter took my case to a weekly meeting of medical staff,” Ted says. “It was great that UT Medical Center doctors actually discuss their treatments with other doctors. It is helpful, and I think that is the best way to come up with treatment options.”
Since Ted’s recovery from the bypass was slow and a second surgery would be very risky, Dr. Dieter suggested the Cope’s look at all of their options. “Dr. Dieter said that traditional surgery is the gold standard for lung cancer treatment, because they go in and remove the upper lobe,” Judith explains. “But he also wanted us to speak to someone regarding CyberKnife®. He said that no matter what we decided, we should find out more about CyberKnife.”
The Cope’s spoke with Dr. Robert Bertoli, a radiation oncologist at UT Medical Center. Ted’s lung cancer tumor was discovered in an early stage and was the right size for CyberKnife stereotactic radiosurgery. Ted would receive four CyberKnife sessions to treat the nodule found on his upper left lobe. “Regular radiation can just shrink the nodule, but CyberKnife provides such a targeted, high dose of radiation, it just kills it,” Ted explains.
CyberKnife stereotactic radiosurgery is used to treat tumors and other conditions throughout the entire body. CyberKnife delivers precise beams of radiation from many angles outside the body. The accuracy is so precise, in fact, that radiation can be matched to the shape of small complex tumors—even those close to critical organs. This technology is able to treat conditions such as trigeminal neuralgia, lung tumors, liver tumors, prostate tumors, brain tumors, spine tumors, pancreas tumors and other soft tissue tumors. CyberKnife can even treat tumors that are considered inoperable or untreatable with surgery or other options.
Ted would put on his synchrony vest, lie down on the table and let the machine do the work, while listening to his choice of music. First, the image-guidance system would track and verify Ted’s lung tumor location. The LED beacons on the synchrony vest allow CyberKnife to compensate for patient movement and reconfigures treatment delivery according to the patient’s breathing pattern.
The multi-jointed robotic arm of the CyberKnife provides unmatched maneuverability in targeting tumors. A high-energy X-ray source mounted on the robotic arm precisely locates the position of the tumor and delivers pinpoint radiation.
“Seeing the room made me nervous at first,” Ted says. “Any treatment will make you anxious. But I cannot say enough about the CyberKnife staff that put me at ease, and even played my favorite music—George Strait and Merle Haggard—in the room during my treatments.”
In April 2007, Ted had a follow-up PET/CT scan. The results were great! The scan showed no more tumor (compared to prior study), and there was only mild inflammation from the radiation.
“I wish there was a way that people could find cancer in early stages like mine,” Ted says. “There is no screening for lung cancer. I would not have found it without the preoperative CT Scan.”
Ted will have additional follow-up appointments in six months and one year. He attends rehabilitation two times a week and quit smoking more than a year ago.
“I am so glad he is still around,” Judith says. “It is wonderful that CyberKnife is such a great alternative to surgery. It is great that it was right here in Knoxville. UT Medical Center really made it so much easier.”
Ted is thrilled with his second chance. “I would have traveled far to have the CyberKnife treatment,” Ted says.“I am glad it was right here. I couldn’t have made it through without Judith. She came with me every day. I owe everything to Judith, the staff at UT Medical Center and CyberKnife. It made me a believer.”
To see if CyberKnife treatment is an option for you or your loved one or for more information on CyberKnife Stereotactic Radiosurgery, please speak to your doctor or call toll-free 1.877.UT.CARES (1.877.882.2737).
Click here for more information on the Cancer Institute.
*Strait, George. “Second Chances,” Ocean Front Property.