Local woman to undergo cutting-edge procedure

Marjory Boileau considers herself very lucky.
The Fort Frances resident was diagnosed with a brain tumour back in September, but she was to undergo a procedure Wednesday that should get rid of the tumour without doctors having to make a single incision.
“I’m excited because it’s new, and I’m very, very lucky,” Boileau said Friday.
A teller at the local Toronto Dominion bank, the mother of three adult children first noticed something was wrong late last summer when she started having double vision.
“I thought it was my trifocals,” she said, adding she suffers no pain from the tumour at all.
Boileau visited her optometrist, who recommended she see her family doctor.
She then was referred to a specialist in Thunder Bay, where she had magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) done. It was discovered she has a meningioma tumour deep inside her brain.
Though probably benign, Boileau said the tumour is “in amongst all the nerves. The doctor said he can’t do conventional surgery on it.”
This makes Boileau a prime candidate for the new procedure now being offered at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg.
It’s called Gamma Knife surgery and while it’s been available in the United States and other parts of the world for years, it only recently became available in Winnipeg—at the only hospital in Canada to offer the procedure.
Developed in Sweden some 30 years ago, Gamma Knife surgery eliminates both malignant and benign brain tumours, as well as other brain abnormalities, by aiming 201 beams of gamma radiation onto the exact location of the growth.
The beams are accurate within less than a millimetre, so there is little chance of damaging the surrounding healthy tissue. The procedure is said to be non-invasive because there is no incision, and as a result there is little chance of infection or hemorrhaging.
“Compared to traditional surgical techniques, patients treated with the Gamma Knife spend hours recuperating instead of weeks,” said Dr. Michael West, head of neurosurgery and co-director of the Winnipeg Centre for Gamma Knife Surgery.
The Gamma Knife tumour control rate is 93 percent, with a recurrence rate of six percent, whereas microsurgery has a recurrence rate of up to 24 percent.
The hospital revealed its $6.7-million machine in November—only two months after Boileau had been diagnosed—and has since treated about 70 patients from across Canada.
The machine has an annual operating cost of $1.3 million, but the procedure itself is covered by OHIP.
Boileau said the same surgery south of the border would have cost $40,000 (U.S.) “I want people to know how lucky we are to have this in Canada,” she stressed.
Boileau said she will remain conscious during the procedure, which was scheduled for Wednesday morning, and will be given only a mild sedative. She also said she’ll leave the hospital the same day.
“You just can’t drive yourself home,” she laughed.
The length of time a patient needs to spend under the Gamma Knife can vary “from 15 minutes to one hour,” according to Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre spokesperson Michele Augert.
Afterwards, the patient is observed for a couple of hours and usually is discharged that day. “Some patients go back to work the next day,” Augert said.
The results of the procedure are not instant, with Boileau saying her doctor told her it may take six months to two years for her tumour to shrink.
She now wears a filter in one lens of her eyeglasses to help reduce her double-vision, and admitted her eyesight may never improve, but she remains thankful for the chance to have her tumour removed in a safe, effective procedure.
“I just feel so lucky, and I’m excited for other people, too,” she remarked.
(Fort Frances Times)