How one patient found help after life-changing brain cancer diagnosis
Posted: December 20, 2020 | Word Count: 1,195
Jeanneane M. was living the life of a “work hard, play hard” non-profit executive in D.C. She was enjoying her office located two buildings from the White House, the ability to travel extensively, and the opportunity to hobnob with Washington’s movers and shakers. However, the migraine headaches, which she had suffered from since age six, were increasing, leading to debilitating headaches. Ultimately, she made the difficult decision to quit the job she loved.
“Something within me told me, without question, that I had to resign and move to Texas to be near my family,” Jeanneane said.
With the moving van packed, Jeanneane headed off to one last doctor’s appointment before heading on the road.
“Amazingly, as I handed my car keys to the valet, I suffered a seizure and went to the emergency room instead of the doctor’s appointment,” Jeanneane recalled.
A subsequent MRI revealed a large lime-size tumor in her brain, which would ultimately be diagnosed as glioblastoma (GBM), a rare but aggressive form of cancer.
Jeanneane described calling her mom to share the news as “the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I knew I would break her heart.”
Jeanneane’s mom, Jenny, expressed how heart wrenching it was to receive ‘The Call’ stating “Her announcement socked me in the gut.”
"It's a life-changing diagnosis,” said Dr. Karen Fink, a neurooncologist at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, who is treating Jeanneane.
According to Fink, “Optune is non-invasive and delivers treatment directly to the tumor, and the most common device-related adverse event is mild-to-moderate skin irritation.”
Optune works by delivering low-intensity, wave-like electric fields via adhesive patches called transducer arrays, placed on a patient’s scalp. These fields, known as Tumor Treating Fields or TTFields, leave patients' healthy cells mostly unaffected, but are strong enough to slow or stop cancer cells from dividing and may destroy some cancer cells completely.
“Surgery rarely eliminates all tumor cells, due to the invasive nature of GBM,” Fink explained. “We aim to use all the tools at our disposal to help fight this cancer.”
Jenny explained one of the reasons Jeanneane decided to use Optune was “We had read the dreadful statistics of GBM and were determined to help fight this cancer with our entirety.”
Although wearing the device required Jeanneane to shave her head in order to apply the arrays, she was not too bothered.
“When looking to extend your life, hair doesn’t matter,” Jeanneane said. “I wanted to do whatever I needed to.”
Jeanneane, who had an active lifestyle, was, however, concerned about how using Optune would impact her ability to travel.
According to Jeanneane, “The travel ended up being easier than I expected. After one successful trip, I felt like a pro and [had] no more traveling concerns.”
Jeanneane has logged many miles across the country since starting Optune. She’s gone back to working nearly full-time and is a popular speaker for non-profit conferences. She also travels to visit her mom who lives in West Virginia and who helps serve as her caregiver along with her father in Texas.
“My family has adjusted to stepping up to care for me,” Jeanneane said. “When my mom got ‘The Call’ at work she literally walked straight out the door and got on a plane and then spent a full year away from her home to help me fight GBM. Though I moved in with my dad in Texas I now frequently travel to visit my mom.”
In fact, one aspect Jeanneane cites as the silver lining to her diagnosis is the additional time that she is now spending with her family.
“I’ve learned to value the beauty in small things — seeing a niece win a medal in an ice-skating competition, watching a little nephew light up with joy upon seeing his birthday cake, giving a teen nephew advice on how to approach his first crush,” Jeanneane said. “I am grateful for being a part of these precious memories and for every day I survive, which is priceless.”
Indications and Important Safety Information for Optune®
What is Optune® approved to treat?
Optune is a wearable, portable, FDA-approved device indicated to treat a type of brain cancer called glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) in adult patients 22 years of age or older.
Newly diagnosed GBM
If you have newly diagnosed GBM, Optune is used together with a chemotherapy called temozolomide (TMZ) if:
- Your cancer is confirmed by your healthcare professional AND
- You have had surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible
If your tumor has come back, Optune can be used alone as an alternative to standard medical therapy if:
- You have tried surgery and radiation and they did not work or are no longer working AND
- You have tried chemotherapy and your GBM has been confirmed by your healthcare professional
Who should not use Optune?
Optune is not for everyone. Talk to your doctor if you have:
- An implanted medical device (programmable shunt), skull defect (missing bone with no replacement), or bullet fragment. Optune has not been tested in people with implanted electronic devices, which may cause the devices not to work properly, and Optune has not been tested in people with skull defects or bullet fragments, which may cause Optune not to work properly
- A known sensitivity to conductive hydrogels (the gel on the arrays placed on the scalp like the ones used on EKGs). When Optune comes into contact with the skin, it may cause more redness and itching or may rarely cause a life-threatening allergic reaction
Do not use Optune if you are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant. It is not known if Optune is safe or effective during pregnancy.
What should I know before using Optune?
Optune should only be used after receiving training from qualified personnel, such as your doctor, a nurse, or other medical staff who have completed a training course given by Novocure®, the maker of Optune.
- Do not use any parts that did not come with the Optune Treatment Kit sent to you by Novocure or given to you by your doctor
- Do not get the device or transducer arrays wet
- If you have an underlying serious skin condition on the scalp, discuss with your doctor whether this may prevent or temporarily interfere with Optune treatment
What are the possible side effects of Optune?
Most common side effects of Optune when used together with chemotherapy (temozolomide, or TMZ) were low blood platelet count, nausea, constipation, vomiting, tiredness, scalp irritation from the device, headache, seizure, and depression. The most common side effects when using Optune alone were scalp irritation (redness and itchiness) and headache. Other side effects were malaise, muscle twitching, fall and skin ulcers. Talk to your doctor if you have any of these side effects or questions.
Please visit Optune.com/Safety for the Optune Instructions For Use (IFU) for complete information regarding the device’s indications, contraindications, warnings, and precautions.
© 2020 Novocure GmbH. All rights reserved. Novocure and Optune are registered trademarks of Novocure GmbH. US-OPT-04190. December 2020