Electrode treatment gives brain cancer survivor new lease on life

January 11, 2018 03:42 PM

Getting a cancer diagnosis is devastating -- especially for patients with a malignancy of the brain.

The most disturbing of diagnoses is a particularly aggressive form of brain cancer. It's called glioblastoma, which typically results in a poor prognosis.

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A Pennsylvania woman diagnosed with glioblastoma has been at the forefront of a treatment that gives her and others hope.

Within days of doctors telling her in April 2011 she had glioblastoma, Maureen Piekanski underwent an operation to remove the malignant grade IV brain tumor.

"So, I had the surgery in the end of April. I had chemo and radiation and then they said, 'Okay, we did everything we could do,'" Piekanski recalled.

The surgery was no cure and the prognosis she received going forward was grim. 

"The best you can hope for is 15 months," Piekanski explained.

That was before she found out about a clinical trial for a treatment she now keeps under her hat.

Four electrodes on her shaved scalp are part of a device called "Optune."

"I had nothing to lose and the fact that it was non-invasive, it wasn't going to hurt me made it all the better and it was one of the few options," she noted.

Optune creates an electric field to disrupt the growth and reproduction of cancer cells in the brain.

"I just know I don't feel it. I don't mind it. I'm used to it," she explained.

Piekanski received her Optune device a few months after her surgery.

Her husband, Ted, helps place the electrodes on Piekanski's head every couple of days after she shaves her scalp.

Patients who use the Optune device are urged to wear it at least 18 hours a day. In Piekanski's case, she even uses it when she sleeps.

Since it's portable, she can take it with her wherever she goes, whether it's visiting her grandchildren or even taking a cruise.

While acknowledging it's not a cure, Piekanski firmly believes Optune has given her a new lease and a new outlook on life.

"I just would love people to believe like I've learned to that you can beat something. And I'm rare, but I've been beating it for six years," Piekanski pointed out.

Optune and other tumor treating field technology have the potential to treat other types of cancer.

Optune is FDA approved and is covered by many insurances.



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