Local man uses Gamma Knife

STEELTON, Pa. (WHTM) – Kevin Sheets, a dentist, goes between Steelton and Colonial Park Family Dentistry. He leads a busy life, so you wouldn’t guess a certain fact about him.

“I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in 2006. We’ve had some re-occurrence over the years and my most recent scan showed some lesions on my brain,” Sheets said.

He turned to Dr. Jonas Sheehan, a neurosurgeon with Holy Spirit Hospital – A Geisinger Affiliate.

“Melanoma had gone to several areas of his body and one of those areas was his brain. He had seven or eight tumors that were lodged in the brain. Surgery for seven or eight different spots wouldn’t be a great idea,” Sheehan said.

Sheets opted for Gamma Knife.

“This is the third machine like this in the country functioning at this point. This is a focused radiation machine that treats tumors and other problems in the head and neck,” Sheehan said.

He said this option, once thought of as a last resort, now tops the list.

“Over the years, the results have been so good and the success rate has been so high, using this machine, that is really the first choice now for a lot of those things,” Sheehan said.

Each patient gets a custom face mask. A frame keeps them in place.

“Here’s the secret: there are 192 radiation beams and they are all very weak, but they are all focused at the same spot, so if you’re in that spot, you are very hot. If you get away from that spot, you don’t lose your hair, you don’t get a sunburn. The only thing that gets a lot of radiation is that spot,” Sheehan said.

Sheehan says conventional radiation for brain tumors is given in a small dose once a day over several weeks, which can cause tiredness and hair loss. With Gamma Knife, it’s just one session.

“Most of the time, for the tumors, the success rate is over 95 percent, so that’s good long-term control, a very easy procedure to have done and virtually no down time,” Sheehan said.

But after Sheets’ treatment, things were a lot better.

“I felt fine. I did my CPR class and met my friends that evening,” he said.

And he was back to work the next day.

The Holy Spirit – A Geisinger Affiliate’s machine came to the United States by way of Sweden. For more information about it, visit http://www.hsh.org/gamma-knife.

Different versions of Gamma Knife are also utilized at other Midstate hospitals. Lancaster General Health uses it as well as Penn State Hershey Medical Center.

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