Each year about 67,000 people hear the devastating words, "You have a brain tumor." Although doctors can safely remove many of them, there are times when the outlook is very grim.
But now there's new hope for people with the most stubborn type of brain tumor.
Hope for Healing
Kenny Coughenour always enjoyed excellent health. So he was shocked when his body simply shut down without any warning.
"I was taking a shower and I fell and my whole right side kind of collapsed," he recalled. "And I opened the door, went out, and fell in the hallway and my whole right side, for three or four minutes, I couldn't move anything on my right side. So I knew then that I was in trouble."
Coughenour had a brain tumor.
When it comes getting rid of a brain tumor, a lot depends on where it's located. Tumors near the surface can often be completely removed. But ones further inside the brain are hard to reach, and can sometimes be only partially removed or not at all.
That's the kind Coughenour had. He was given one year to live.
"I knew I had to trust God," he said. "And doctors are wonderful, but there's only one ultimate healer and so that's who I turned to and put all of my faith in that."
Then Coughenour got some great news from the world-famous Cleveland Clinic. He qualified for a promising surgery that, instead of cutting out the tumor, the surgeon leaves it right where it is, but inserts a tiny laser into it and burns it.
Dr. Manmeet Ahluwalia, a Cleveland Clinic oncologist who treated Coughenour, said the treatment is so far showing promising results.
"We so far have used it in patients where they have tumors which are located deep in the brain which are difficult to get to or remove in totality due to the location," he said.
Destroying the Tumor
The treatment is called AutoLITT/NeuroBlate, or simply Neuroblate.
The patient is in an MRI machine. With great precision, a thin laser probe is inserted through a tiny hold in the skull. Using a computer screen, the surgeon steers the probe to the tumor.
The tip of the probe releases laser energy sideways, heating and destroying brain tumor tissue in one direction, while cooling and protecting normal tissue near the tumor.
Coughenour was only the second patient to have this treatment done. He remembered what he was experiencing the days leading up to the surgery.
"I had been praying without ceasing as the Bible says. I was praying without ceasing, and then I felt a relief," he recalled. "I felt God spoke to me and said, 'It's going to be okay.'"
"And that's where it's been since there, the surgery went great and I haven't had any problems since," he said.
That was nearly two years ago.
If you've been diagnosed with a brain tumor and are wondering whether AutoLITT/NeuroBlate might be your solution, you can be initially evaluated right from the comfort of your own home.
Just call the Cleveland Clinic's NeuroBlate hotline at (216) 636-5392 or toll free (866) 588-2264. You can chat with a representative online or make an appointment here.
Coughenour's imbalance and loss of movement in part of the body are two of the hallmark symptoms of a brain tumor. Others include:
- vision problems
- hearing loss
- speech difficulty
- a new seizure
- a change in personality
- a headache that won't go away.
"Any of these symptoms can basically alert someone to at least have an initial consultation with their primary care doctor," Ahluwalia advised.
Why a Brain Tumor?
Although doctors know the symptoms of brain tumors, they don't know why people get them. Some studies indicate they may come from cell phone use, living near power lines, and transformers.
Other studies indicate they can be caused by exposure to petroleum products like plastic, especially plastic that's been heated, such as in the microwave or water bottles that have been left in a hot car.
Still other studies link brain tumors with chemicals that have been added to our foods and drinks, such as pesticides that are sprayed on food crops and additives such as artificial sweeteners in soda.
However, none of that research is conclusive.
Coughenour has no idea why he got a brain tumor. But believe it or not, he said he's glad he did, and is also grateful he was led by God to the NeuroBlate treatment.
"I was always busy at work. I'd give it 60, 70 hours, and this whole experience completely changed my life to where I try not to work those hours," he said. "I spend more time at home with the family, more time with our church, so it's basically got my priorities straight."