Page last updated at 01:02 GMT, Sunday, 24 January 2010

'I had 30 doses to my brain'

By Jane Elliott
Health reporter, BBC News

Jet Payne
Jet received more than 30 treatments to her tumour

When Jet Payne woke one morning with double vision and headaches her first thought was that she had a sinus problem.

But within days she was horrified to discover that she had a brain tumour and was in need of urgent surgery and radiotherapy.

"It was a shock," the 25-year-old Londoner said. "I was very frightened about what sort of tumour it was and what the implications might be."

Tests at University College London Hospital (UCLH) revealed that, although her tumour was benign, it was pressing on her optic nerves and threatening her sight.

Growing tumour

Doctors told her she needed a six-hour operation to remove the tumour followed by 33 sessions of cutting-edge radiotherapy.

"It was a benign tumour but was growing very fast and viciously so if it had not been stopped it would have continued pressing on all the nerves which control the eyes," she said.

I really am looking forward to 2010, getting my life back on track, because I have had to put everything on hold
Jet Payne

"It was absolutely terrifying.

"I just tried to keep strong and throw myself at it.

"The radiotherapy was not painful, it just left an unpleasant smell in my nose, although the helmet I had to wear for treatment was quite tight as they had given me steroids and my face had swollen."

Luckily for Jet UCLH, where she was treated, is among the first in the country to treat brain tumour patients with a pioneering method of radiotherapy which delivers faster doses, more accurately.

The RapidArc technology delivers image-guided IMRT (intensity modulated radiotherapy) in just two minutes - up to eight times quicker than conventional methods.

Clinicians say there is less chance of the patient or tumour moving during treatment, it minimises damage to the brain stem and optic nerve, and because the beam moves in an arc round the patient it is easier to target the tumour.

Less risk

Susan Short, consultant clinical oncologist in charge of the brain unit at UCLH, said the new treatment is proving very efficient: "The radiotherapy department is very impressed and it is quite a straightforward treatment from the patient's point of view.

"It delivers a lower overall dose to tissue outside the target area compared to other methods, which is particularly important for those patients who have had previous radiotherapy.

Jet Payne and radiographer Emma Drinkwater
Jet (left) is hoping for a better 2010

"We won't know yet whether it has been successful in shrinking the tumours as it can take some time to determine that, but it is certainly a more comfortable treatment for our patients.

"We are one of the first to use this and have treated five patients, including Jet.

"She has tolerated it very well, but it is too early to say how well it has worked."

Tailored therapy

Henry Scowcroft, science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said the new treatment is very promising.

"The new method of delivering radiotherapy is a real improvement as treatment can be tailored to the size and shape of the tumour.

"Cancer Research UK is funding a number of clinical trials which aim to perfect this treatment for many other cancers including prostate, lung and head and neck cancer."

Although she must wait for a few months to see how the treatment has worked, Jet says she is looking forward to a happier year.

"It has been such a long year with the surgery and radiotherapy," she said.

"I really am looking forward to 2010, getting my life back on track, because I have had to put everything on hold."

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