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Advances in brain-cancer treatment gives patients new hope

Posted at 11:49 PM, Jul 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-22 10:34:09-04

The nation was shocked to learn Sen. John McCain (R-AZ.) was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer. Now, there are relatively recent advances in treatment, helping patients beat the odds.

Both are helping treat patients with brain cancer like that of Sen. McCain. Both are giving patients new hope.

Tricia Klein was baffled by a mysterious medical crisis. Her vision grew blurry, the left side of her body, weak. “Chest pain, sometimes shortness of breath," Klein said. "I just knew something was wrong."

Then, Klein got the diagnosis no one wants to hear. “A malignant brain tumor,” Klein said. Klein had brain cancer, similar to Sen. McCain's.

She wasn't ready to leave her husband and their two kids. And she was armed with the knowledge of what medical path to take. “Initially, I was relieved," Klein said. "I wasn't thrilled about the fact i that i had cancer. But it was good to know what to do."

A typical patient may live up to two years after treatment. 

"You wouldn't wish it on your worst enemy," said Dr. Matthew Schwartz, an oncologist with Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada. But because of the advances "people now, are living longer than they ever have."

The center is the only place in southern Nevada using the CyberKnife.

"It's like doing surgery without the surgery," Dr. Schwartz said. It's a laser-like radiation machine that precisely zeroes in cells in the brain. “It’s almost like laser beams of radiation, targeting in the tumor cells and allowing us to spare the normal vital structures of the brain," Dr. Schwartz said.

Optune, is a helmet-like device that attaches to a patient's scalp and sends electrical impulses to disrupting cancer cells.

"It allows them to avoid having to go to the operating room. It's completely painless and they go home afterwards," Dr. Schwartz said.

"The more we can use technology to treat those disease processes, the better the survival rates and the better the outcomes will be," Dr. Scwhartz said.

Klein has been cancer free for three years.

Dr. Schwartz said the advanced treatments are helping patients live longer so they can spend more time with their loved ones.