Brain Tumors: Diagnosis and Treatment Options

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Ruth Ross assumed the stress of her husband’s cancer was to blame for her uncharacteristic double-booking of dinner plans and inability to balance her checkbook. However, as her forgetfulness increased, Ruth’s husband, Chris, encouraged her to see a doctor. On the same day the couple learned of Chris’s remission, the doctors at the Swedish Medical Center discovered a massive tumor on the left side of Ruth’s brain.

Ruth joins Andrew and Dr. Greg Foltz, director for the Pacific Northwest Brain Tumor Alliance, for a discussion about the current state of brain tumor diagnoses and different treatment options. Dr. Foltz explains how cancer today is really an individual disease and patients should be treated with individualized therapies. Glioblastoma, also known as brain cancer, has multiple subtypes. A single patient may even have one tumor with different areas within it.

Learn about the standard treatment, which combines radiation therapy and a concurrent pill-form chemotherapy. Dr. Foltz explains how the Swedish Medical Center, where he works, goes a step further in treatment and biopsies the tumor in order to look across the genome and see what genes are expresses or not. This may help inform a doctor about how the patient will respond to certain therapies. Also, hear about two new forms of stereotactic radiosurgery, CyberKnife and Gamma Knife, that allow for extremely targeted radiation treatments.

Dr. Foltz discusses his 4 P’s of medicine approach: Personalized medicine, allows you to predict, allows you to prevent, but most importantly allows you to participate in the process. Although a diagnosis of brain cancer may be very daunting because there is currently no cure, the key is to find a treatment plan that buys a patient more time. With over 40 compounds, including Avastin, currently being studied in brain cancer, the future looks promising.

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Produced in association with Swedish Medical Center

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Transcript

Andrew:

Good morning wherever you may be on what promises to be a great and beautiful day in the Pacific Northwest. Andrew Schorr here, live on AM 570, KVI, bringing you the most credible medical and health information we can. That's what we do week after week. And wherever you may be either in the sound of my voice, you know, on radio or on the internet worldwide, welcome and thank you for being with us.

So we cover a lot of topics on Patient Power and as you married from [?] Carleen at the beginning, yes, I'm an 11 year leukemia survivor, and I was fortunate to have a chronic leukemia. And I do not mean to trivialize that, but compared to some other cancers it's sort of cancer light. I'm an 11 year survivor. The treatment was not easy, but it wasn't terribly difficult. It varies by patient. Some people have it much rougher than I do, but I'm blessed to be in a deep and right now, hopefully, lasting remission.

But cancers are many different diseases, and we're going to learn more about that as we go on today. But, generally, two of the most serious and scariest diagnoses with are pancreatic cancer and brain cancer. And if that's the diagnosis you hear it terrifies you. Well, imagine if that happened to a husband and to a wife. And it has happened to a couple who live in the Shoreline area, Richmond Beach of Seattle. A couple in their late 40s, two teenage daughters. I want you to meet them. Because as scary as that is they are sitting with me here today and right now they're doing well. And I know our prayer for them is that goes on for a long, long time.

We're also going to meet the neurosurgeon from Swedish Medical Center who has helped the wife, Ruth, who you're going to meet in just a second, with her brain tumor, where had there not been intervention she would have lasted maybe a week, and now that was many, many months ago. And she's here. You're going to hear her. She's perky, when imagine somebody critically ill where they were basically in a coma. So there is progress.

The other story we want to tell today in the next hour is how in Seattle and I've said this about a number of conditions is ground zero for a lot of medical progress. And we're blessed that medical institutions are working together and scientists to move the ball forward, as I like to say. So we in the Pacific Northwest have the option of getting some really state of the art even further, you know, really, maybe we're looking towards into the 21st century care based on the research that's going on right here. And that I think is great, that you can drive over rather than having to get on a plane and go far away. Okay.

First of all, special thanks to the medical institutions that make all this possible. Swedish Medical Center, of course, and you'll hear more about the Swedish Neuroscience Institute today. University of Washington Medical Center. Harborview Medical Center. The good folks at the Senior Guidebook, who give us new options about senior living.

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