Radiation therapy is a treatment for cancer. Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy (SBRT) is a form of radiation therapy. The doctor may recommend Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy (SBRT) if one’s cancer cannot be treated with surgery or other methods.
Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy (SBRT) may be used to help cure or control the growth of the patient’s cancer or it can be used to help relieve pain and other symptoms caused by cancer.
How Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy (SBRT) works
Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy (SBRT) uses radiation (high-energy X-rays) to destroy cancer cells. Imaging studies are used to create detailed pictures of the tumor. Then a machine called a linear accelerator (LINAC) is aimed at the tumor. It sends high doses of radiation into the tumor.
This can help kill cancer cells or slow their growth. It can also shrink the size of the tumor. Each radiation done is precisely focused so that normal tissue around the tumor receives little or no radiation. This helps reduce the risk of side effects.
Preparing for Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy (SBRT)
Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy (SBRT) is performed by a radiation therapy team. This team often includes a radiation doctor, nurse, therapist, physicist, and dosimetrist.
Before the patient’s treatment begins, he will have one or more visits with the team to plan and prepare for his treatment. This may involve having other tests and procedures. Prior to the patient’s first treatment session:
- The patient may need to have fiducial markers (also called seeds) placed in or near the tumor site. The markers are tiny pieces of gold metal. They show up clearly on imaging studies and are used later to help guide your radiation treatment. The doctor will explain Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy (SBRT) to the patient in more detail if it is needed.
- The patient can have CT scans or other imaging tests done. These are used to map out the exact sites in the patient’s body that will be treated with radiation.
- Positioning devices are made that will help hold the patient’s body in the same position for each treatment session. These can include molds, masks, rests, and cushions.
Having Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy (SBRT) Treatments
With Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy (SBRT), 1 to 5 radiation sessions are given over the course of 1 to 2 weeks. The patient and doctors discuss the exact schedule for this treatment in advance. Each treatment session takes about 60-90 minutes.
Here’s what to expect during each session:
- The patient will change into a patient gown. The radiation therapist positions the patient on the treatment table. If positioning devices were made, they are used at this time.
- X-ray or CT images are used to confirm correct positioning and alignment of the beams from the LINAC with the patient’s body. The beams are then directed at the tumor. The patient will be able to hear the machine, but he won’t feel anything.
- The patient can go home shortly after the treatment is done. The doctor or nurse will let the patient know if and when he needs to return for his next session.
Possible Side Effects of Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy (SBRT)
With any form of radiation therapy, healthy cells and tissue around the tumor can also be affected by the treatment. This can lead to side effects, such as fatigue and skin changes. Most side effects go away soon after treatment ends.
But some side effects do not occur until months or even years after the treatment. The type of side effects and how severe they are will depend on the amount of radiation received and the part of the body being treated.
The doctor can tell the patient more about what side effects to expect and how to manage them. If needed, medications can be prescribed to treat some side effects. The healthcare team can also teach the patient ways to help cope with side effects.