A groundbreaking “laser pen” helped save a young woman’s life after doctors gave her the crushing news that she had an inoperable brain tumor.
24-year-old Anna Swabey was shocked and horrified to learn that she had a malignant brain tumor that proved to be impossible for surgeons to safely remove.
Although doctors essentially gave Swabey three years to live, she learned about a new device being tested at London’s Charing Cross Hospital that could save her life if it really worked.
Traditionally, surgeons have placed brain tissue cuttings underneath an operating microscope to tell them where a brain tumor ends and healthy tissue begins.
In Swabey’s case, the cancerous tumor was multi-centric, meaning it was growing outward from two different points.
Because it was so complicated to pinpoint the exact location of the entire tumor, surgeons thought it would be impossible to remove it without causing Swabey permanent brain damage.
However, surgeons at Charing Cross Hospital have become the first in the world to use a medically innovative laser pen that identifies cancerous tissue during surgery, making the tumor extraction far more precise and less invasive.
The pen, called the Core, uses a laser light that reacts differently when pointed at brain tumors than healthy brain tissue.
In other words, the Core helps surgeons see exactly where they need to cut, meaning many “inoperable” tumors, like Swabey’s, can be removed after all.
Although it proved to be impossible to remove the part of the tumor that was covered by blood vessels in the center of Swabey’s brain, surgeons were able to successfully extract part of the mass in her frontal lobe.
By dramatically reducing the size of the tumor with surgery, doctors now hope that they can further shrink Swabey’s cancerous mass through radiation and chemotherapy.
Thanks to the laser pen, Swabey’s tumor is now just 10 percent the size of what it was when it was first discovered.