Radiotherapy hospitals UK - multiple sclerosis

How Radiotherapy Can Tackle Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms

improving outcomes for patients, reducing side-effects and expanding the number of treatments available at radiotherapy hospitals in the UK.

The extent to which this is the case is not always appreciated. Many people will be aware that it is possible now to treat various head and brain cancers. Some might even have heard of devices like the gamma knife. However, some will not know that radiotherapy can also be used in treating some non-cancerous conditions.

Not Just Cancer

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an example of that. Anyone with MS may find they sometimes need to explain at length to those who ask just what the condition is. Many, for example, will not know that it is an autoimmune disease that specifically attacks myelin, the coating that protects your nerves.

As any sufferer knows, this can be a progressive condition that may display its first hints in your 20s but usually starts to display significant symptoms in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. Around 130,000 people in Britain have the condition.

Of these, 85 per cent have relapsing remitting MS (RRMS), which means the condition improves and then worsens many times, rather than primary progressive MS (PPMS), which is when the condition gradually gets more severe. However, some of those with RRMS will eventually of on to suffer secondary progressing MS (SPMS).

The problem with the loss of myelin is it means the nerves are exposed to damage that may not otherwise occur, which means the normal flow of signals that flow through the central nervous system from the brain to the rest of the body can be disrupted. This can lead to a deterioration of things like vision, memory, balance and emotions.

While most sufferers may be relieved when the condition eases at times and allows life to become less of a struggle, the knowledge that there will come a subsequent time of worsening symptoms will always cast a shadow. That is why it is important not to just accept it as a life sentence.

How A Gamma Knife Can Help MS Sufferers

There are various treatments, including gamma knife therapy offered by Mr Jonathan Hyam, our specialist in this area. Gamma knife therapy can be used to combat a symptom known as Trigeminal neuralgia. This condition produces severe pain in the trigeminal nerves, which carry signals from the brain to the face, making it one of the most painful MS symptoms.

Research has shown this treatment can be substantially effective in pain reduction, which could make dealing with it much less of a challenge for MS sufferers, particularly those in the 15 per cent who have PPMS as well as those with SPMS.

This kind of therapy can be complemented by a range of other treatments and steps that patients and their doctors can undertake to ease the consequences of MS in a range of different ways.

These can include steps like an intense chemotherapy known as HSCT – a form of powerful chemotherapy, as well as physio, disease-modifying drugs and also lifestyle changes such as better exercise, improved diet and stopping smoking.

Could A Diagnostic Development Help Achieve More?

While MS may not be as straightforwardly progressive as a disease like cancer, an early diagnosis does make it easier to treat the condition, with early steps having the potential to ensure that suffering is minimised in the years ahead.

However, the diagnosis is often achieved indirectly and belatedly, with many sufferers only discovering they have the disease when they start to suffer symptoms and visit the doctor thinking they have something else.

For this reason, any new diagnostic tool that can provide advance warning of MS could make a major difference. Whether through gamma knife therapy or other treatments, clinicians may be able to do far more in such circumstances.

New hope has just emerged in this important area. A blood test developed by the University of California at San Francisco could be a game-changer, revealing biomarkers at an early stage that can identify MS many years before any symptoms emerge.

Noting the significance of this for treating the condition earlier, Michael Wilson MD, senior neurologist at the university and one of the main authors of the paper on the test, said: “Over the last few decades, there’s been a move in the field to treat MS earlier and more aggressively with newer, more potent therapies,”

He added: “A diagnostic result like this makes such early intervention more likely, giving patients hope for a better life.”

This means that while there is much that can be done now to help MS sufferers using a gamma knife, there may be more still in the years ahead.