Stereotactic Radiosurgery and Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy

Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) is a complex name for a common cancer treatment.

Despite what the name implies, SRS is not a type of surgery. It is a form of radiation therapy that treats tumors without any surgical incision. In fact, for many people, SRS is a safer and more effective treatment than open surgery.

What is Stereotactic Radiosurgery?

SRS uses a machine to send radiation into your body with extreme precision and accuracy. In doing so, it:

  • Delivers radiation within one millimeter of its target.
  • Relies on “imaging” such as CT or MRI scans. These scans confirm the location, and create a 3-D map, of your tumor.
  • Sends several beams of radiation to your tumor at one time.
  • Uses higher doses of radiation.

SRS equipment goes by several different names, including Gamma Knife, CyberKnife and HD Versa.

All types of SRS, regardless of brand name, are used to treat cancer or non-cancerous tumors. It shrinks or destroys tumors in the brain and skull. It can also treat non-cancerous neurological conditions. These include problems with arteries and veins in the brain, Parkinson’s disease and nerve disorders like trigeminal neuralgia, chronic pain that affects the face.

Benefits of Stereotactic Radiosurgery 

All types of radiation therapy kill cancer cells. But SRS offers several advantages. These include:

  • More accurate radiation delivery.
  • Improved monitoring of tumor position.
  • Higher doses of radiation can increase efficacy and reduce the number of treatment sessions. Some patients only need one round of SRS.
  • A markedly reduced amount of radiation reaches healthy tissue next to the tumor. This helps reduce side effects and long-term complications.

Mercy offers the latest generation of SRS technology. For example, some locations use the TrueBeam system, which combines SRS and stereotactic body radiotherapy in one machine. Other Mercy locations offer SpaceOAR hydrogel. When used in combination with SRS, SpaceOAR reduces the side effects of prostate cancer treatment.

What to Expect from Stereotactic Radiosurgery

Your Mercy care team will make sure you understand what to expect before, during and after SRS treatment. For example:

  • Gamma Knife SRS can occasionally require a positioning device called a head frame, to keep your head still during treatment. If you need a head frame, it will be attached to your skull with tiny pins. You will receive local anesthesia first, to reduce discomfort. Other SRS machines will require immobilization with a tight-fitting plastic mask. Regardless of the type of immobilization, the purpose is to keep you very still and increase the accuracy and precision of the radiation therapy.
  • SRS may cause temporary side effects. These often include fatigue and skin changes (such as redness, itching or peeling). You may also have problems specific to your head or neck. These include headaches or hair loss.

If you have questions or concerns about SRS, don’t hesitate to talk to one of your Mercy caregivers. We are eager to provide you with the very best care and get you back to doing all the things you love.

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