Explaining Optune® to others
By Dennis, Optune Patient Ambassador • 3 min read
Taking on a new look
When I started Optune, I had no idea what kind of questions I was in for while using it in public until I experienced it firsthand.
After being diagnosed with glioblastoma, I had open and honest discussions with my doctor about potential treatments. This is how I came to learn about Optune. I was told how it could help me manage the disease. But I was also told I had to shave my full head of hair, which was difficult for me. My hair was part of my identity, it took a lot of me to get rid of it. It was also what differentiated me from my brothers—who were all bald!
It took some time to get used to once I finally shaved my head, but I slowly became accustomed to it. I used to feel awkward and uncomfortable, especially out in public. I always felt people were staring at me. Most of the time, I wear a hat out in public to protect the arrays, not because I thought people would be staring.
Having open conversations
I was uncomfortable going out in public with Optune at first, so I started wearing a do rag to cover the arrays whenever I went out which helped me get over being uncomfortable. However, when I don't wear anything over my arrays, Optune has drawn some questions from strangers, and I've never had a problem with answering any questions they have. I've been approached many times by people asking, “What is that you're wearing on your head?” Every time I'm asked that question, I always explain that I have brain cancer and the device on my head is called Optune.
That will usually draw the question, “What is Optune?” I usually describe it like this: it's designed to emit electrical fields into the brain that disrupt cancer cell division and potentially stop them from growing and dividing. I'd also explain to them what the arrays are and that they need to be changed every few days. Now, I'm very comfortable going out in public wearing my arrays.
What I've found is that after I explain what Optune is, I usually get positive comments and well wishes. And, for my family, it's no longer “what is that?” Now, it's “how are you doing?”
Optune hasn't changed who I am or how I communicate with anyone at all. In fact, I like to think it makes me stand out. I think that being asked questions and explaining what Optune is and does is very informative and fulfilling, both for me and the people who are asking.
This story makes me chuckle, so I want to share it: When a new priest started at our church, and he saw me for the first time, he asked what I was wearing. I explained to him what Optune is and what it is designed to do. He was impressed and said it looked like something from Star Trek, which made me laugh. He always asks me how I'm doing, and I really appreciate his interest. It's comfortable conversations like those that can create lasting relationships, and, not to mention, educate others.
Important Safety Information
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?
The 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 click here for the Optune Instructions for Use (IFU) for complete information regarding the device’s indications, contraindications, warnings, and precautions.
On this site, patient and healthcare professional videos as well as all images labeled as Optune users, caregivers, or healthcare professionals depict actual patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals. All other depictions of patients and caregivers are actor portrayals. Patient images reflect the health status of the patients at the time each photo was taken.