Stereotactic Radiosurgery and Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy

Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) is a bit of a complex name for a common cancer treatment. And there are all types of SRS used to treat cancer as well as non-cancerous tumors.

Despite the name, SRS isn’t surgery. It’s a form of radiation therapy that treats tumors without any surgical incision. In fact, for many people, SRS is a safer, more effective treatment than open surgery. SRS delivers a single high dose of radiation to an extremely precise location to minimize exposure to surrounding healthy tissues.

Stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT), also known as stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR), treats tumors with multiple (typically two to five) high-dose radiation treatments.

Benefits of Stereotactic Radiosurgery

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

  • Using imaging like CT or MRI scans to create a 3D map of your tumor improves the monitoring of the tumor’s position
  • More accurate radiation delivery, typically within one millimeter of its target
  • Uses higher doses of radiation to increase effectiveness and reduce the number of treatment sessions. Some patients only need one round of SRS
  • Sends several beams of radiation to your tumor at one time
  • Reduces the amount of radiation that reaches nearby healthy tissue. This helps reduce side effects and long-term complications

Types of SRS and SBRT

  • Gamma Knife, a form of SRS that uses a single dose of gamma rays to treat malignant and benign brain tumors
  • Versa HD, a form of SRS, SBRT and conventional radiation therapy for treating tumors throughout the body, including the brain
  • True Beam, treats tumors with volumetric arc therapy (VMAT), intensity-modulated radiation therapy, as well as SRS and SBRT
  • CyberKnife, a form of SBRT that treats tumors with multiple high-dose radiation treatments (typically two to five)

Mercy offers the latest generation of SRS technology. Some locations use the True Beam system, which combines SRS and SBRT in one machine. Other locations offer SpaceOAR hydrogel, a soft, implanted, absorbable, protective gel spacer that, used along with SRS, 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 your SRS treatment. But here are a few things to know right now:

  • Gamma Knife SRS occasionally requires a positioning device called a head frame to keep your head still during treatment. It’s attached to your skull with tiny pins following a local anesthesia. Other SRS machines require immobilization by use of a tight-fitting plastic mask. No matter the method used, the goal is to reduce movement and increase the accuracy and precision of the radiation therapy.
  • SRS may cause temporary side effects, often including fatigue and skin changes (redness, itching, peeling). You may also have problems specific to your head and neck like headaches or hair loss.

At any time in the process, don’t hesitate to talk to any of your Mercy caregivers about questions or concerns you might have. Remember, our goal is to provide you with the very best care and get you back to living your fullest life.

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