WEB REVIEW – Brain cancer patient saved by Proton Therapy

Thanks to surgery and proton therapy, Jeff Graf, 56 years old, overcame a clival chordoma, a rare type of brain tumor.

When Jeff thought he was having a stroke, he knew he needed to get help right away. During his check up, the scan revealed a mass in his head. Jeff was shocked when the mass was determined to be a chordoma, a rare tumor slowly growing from embryonic remains. He hadn’t had any typical symptoms and the detection of his chordoma was pure luck. To this Jeff said, “I believe in God, and I believe he put me here in the right place at the right time.”

Facing an uphill battle, Jeff turned to the experts at Indiana University Health for answers. He discovered a team of specialists, advanced treatment options and a level of care that few hospitals across the country could provide.

Knowing they’d need to use the most innovative techniques to restore Jeff’s health, doctors quickly mapped out a treatment plan that not only included delicate surgery, but also ultra-precise radiotherapy. Jeff described the staff members as amazing, noting, “Every day they greeted me with smiles and did everything to make treatment go as easily as they could.”

Jeff was first taken care of by neurosurgeons who carefully removed his tumor through his nose. He then began nine weeks of proton therapy at IU Health Proton Therapy Center in Bloomington, Indiana. Proton therapy was particulary indicated, as it allows to precisely deliver the radiation beam into the tumor and spare healthy tissue, thus avoiding critical structures and reducing side effects.

The last three weeks of proton beam treatment were a little rough, Jeff recalls. He felt generally “off.” Things tasted bad. He lost a little hair. But when that passed, he felt better and enjoyed outings in Bloomington with his wife.

Both the surgery and proton therapy were successful and, today, Jeff’s prognosis is good. He remains cancer-free and the only evidence of his treatment is the dark patch of hair that grew back against his head. He says he’s grateful for the state-of-the-art treatment he received and didn’t even know existed.