LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The diagnosis of a brain tumor typically means the start of months of painful treatments and invasive surgeries.
But one Pine Bluff woman is the very first to try a new form of neurosurgery, allowing her to walk out of the hospital the very next day.
Ashley James was first diagnosed with brain cancer after walking into an Ohio emergency room for what she thought was a sinus headache. After answering the questions of doctors, they found the real culprit – Glioblastoma Multiforme, stage four.
“I ended up having a kiwi-sized tumor in my right frontal lobe,” James remembered.
In just hours, the then 33-year-old mom was being scheduled for neurosurgery – a procedure her doctors said would take just a few days to recover from.
“They actually cut the skull open, and he went in there with a scalpel and just cut the tumor out,” said James. “I went in October 23Rd  and got out November 13th. So, it was a very long two to three days.”
The life-saving surgery had its side effects, including weakness on her left side she’s still working through today. So, when her cancer came back two years later after a move to Arkansas and a third pregnancy, this time with two more tumors, her new team of doctors at UAMS knew they had to be careful.
So, they created something new.
Neurosurgeon Dr. Analiz Rodriguez is the first to use two programs injunction to tackle Ashley’s tumors: lasers to kill the cancer cells, and a new tool called Quicktome that maps networks in the brain.
“We can map movement, we can also map language areas,” Dr. Rodriguez explained. “These white areas,” she said pointing to a scan of Ashley’s brain, “is the program that we use to map out the highway systems of her brain.”
Once in surgery, Dr. Rodriguez overlays the map with a live MRI, making sure vital parts of Ashley’s brain like those that control attention aren’t touched by the heat. The result is a minimally invasive surgery with a fast recovery rate.
“I was actually home the next day,” James said, recalling the days following her ablation.
James says she hopes to continue that conversation, sharing this new tech in the hopes other Glioblastoma patients will have a new way to treat their tumors.
“I’m definitely excited about being able to bring new knowledge to other patients in my situation.”
Dr. Rodriguez says UAMS hopes to use this treatment with other patients depending on their cases.
As for Ashley, she will continue chemo and radiation through the end of October.