No scalpel required

• Example of a treatment plan using SRS to treat a brain lesion.

IT’S a persistent belief that the only treatment for brain cancer is to go under the knife, but Dr Chris Harper and his team have been effectively treating hard-to-reach metastatic brain tumours and other lesions with “stereotactic radiosurgery”.

There are no incisions, and no heavy doses of radiation in stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS), which sends several low-intensity beams of radiation directly to the site needing treatment.

These beams add up to deliver a therapeutic dose to the problem area, while leaving surrounding tissues relatively unaffected.

SRS is an alternative for patients unable to undergo surgery, or when the tumour or abnormality is in an area that is difficult to operate on for fear of damaging surrounding parts of the brain. It’s also very low impact: “The benefit is your hair doesn’t fall out, it’s a one-day procedure done as an outpatient, and the side effects are minimal,” Dr Harper says.

The technique was originally designed to treat small, well-defined intracranial targets and is most suited when the cancer is under control elsewhere in the body but is stubbornly difficult to budge in the brain.

“There’s a significant number of cases where chemotherapy or other treatments have controlled the cancer inside the body, but these treatments are not getting into the brain,” Dr Harper says.

SRS is also very successful at treating other conditions like benign lesions on the acoustic nerve that can cause deafness. Traditional treatment involved surgery, with the associated anaesthetic and recovery time, but SRS has shown great effectiveness in treating these tumours with minimal impact.


Arteriovenous malformations — abnormal connections between the arteries and veins that can lead to strokes — can also be treated by SRS.

Dr Harper says there’s a lot of marketing hype around name-brand machines, but it’s much like the difference between a Mercedes and a Porsche; they do the same thing as long as the driver knows what they’re doing.

“People shouldn’t get hung up on the salesmanship,” he says. Patients sometimes ask if they should travel to Sydney for the branded Gamma Knife® but the equipment available in Perth has identical functions.

“Effectively it doesn’t matter which device you use, so you don’t need to go overseas or to Sydney to use a particular device … you can achieve the exact same thing using a machine known as a linear accelerator.”

Dr Harper says patients are relieved when they find out how simple the SRS is. After an initial meeting with the doctor and about a week of careful planning and computer modelling to target the right area, the procedure itself takes about an hour.

For more information contact:
1300 977 062

9 responses to “No scalpel required

      • Hello Pat, Our apologies for the delay, but we have only just been alerted that there have been questions posted online. In response to your question, radiation therapy is one therapeutic option. Stereotactic techniques are sometimes applied. Surgery is, however, often the preferred option. It depends on several factors. We would recommend that you speak to your treating specialist about your options, including radiation therapy.

  1. Hello I have a benign tumor approx 6mm in the intrcochlear. It grows slowly. I am looking for alternate treatment. I have a second growth recently found in my other ear.
    Would I be a suitable candidate?
    Yours truly
    Jennifer Russell

    • Hello Jennifer, Please accept our apologies in getting back to you but we were only alerted to the fact that comments had been posted today. You may be a suitable candidate for radiation therapy, but this depends on many factors. Often, intracochlear benign tumours are just closely watched. It would, however, be worthwhile seeking an opinion from a radiation oncologist or discussing further with your specialist.

    • Hello Susan, Please accept our apologies in getting back to you but we were only alerted to the fact that comments had been posted today.
      Radiation therapy can sometimes be used for small areas of recurrence in cases of gbm, but each case is different and requires thorough examination and consultation. The treating specialists (radiation oncologist) would be able to advise further if radiation therapy is suitable.

  2. hi i have been diagnosed with a brain tumor about 5cm in the left frontal lobe apparently not a good place to operate i am under dr gabriell lee and apparently surgery has a very high risk of where the tumor placement is of leaving me without bebing able to speak and permanent paralysis do you think this would help i am also a public patient

    • Hello Marie, Please accept our apologies for the delay in getting back to you but we were only alerted to the fact that comments had been posted today. Each person is different and while stereotactic surgery is an option for some (but not all) patients, each case needs careful evaluation and the risks/benefits need careful consideration. Dr Lee may have already discussed your situation with other specialists, including a radiation oncologist, and perhaps you were not considered suitable. It would be a worthwhile question to ask him…

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