Medical Minute 9-29: Knocking Out Tumors in 30 Minutes

By: Melissa Medalie Email
By: Melissa Medalie Email

Contractor Nesbit Jenkins has spent most of his 79 years on construction sites. He never wore a hat until recently when doctors found a melanoma on his head.

"The first melanoma was a spindle cell melanoma. It was on the back of my head, where you see the hair missing, and it was stage three," said Nesbit Jenkins.

Four months ago, the cancer spread to his spine. Instead of the traditional open surgery or months of radiation, he had a new procedure called spinal radiosurgery.

"A radiation oncologist is using the laser beam of the radiation treatment to mimic what a surgeon would do if they were doing surgery with a scalpel, so I often call radiosurgery the scalpel without the steel," said Cynthia Anderson, M.D., Professor of Radiology at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia.

Patients need one 15- to 30-minute outpatient treatment. Surgeons hit the tumor with a highly-concentrated, strong dose of radiation but spare vital structures around it.

Early studies show radiosurgery is effective against spinal tumors and the pain that comes with them.

"Patients actually respond very well with their pain, and there's actually very good tumor control with spinal radiosurgery of the tumor," said Costas Hadjipanayis, M.D., Neurosurgeon at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia.

Days after successful surgery, Jenkins is back on the jobsite -- pain-free -- working hard to make sure his cancer doesn't take over his life.

"Going to keep fighting. Never going to give up," said Nesbit Jenkins.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:Janet Christenbury, Associate Director of Media Relations Emory University Hospital Midtown(404)

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