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What is stereotactic radiation therapy?

Stereotactic radiosurgery/body radiation therapy (SRS/SBRT) is a specialized type of external beam radiation therapy that uses focused radiation beams targeting a well-defined tumor to deliver the highest possible radiation dose with pinpoint accuracy. Stereotactic radiation therapy can be used to target tumors in difficult or hard-to-reach locations.

Why it's done

Since there is no incision, SRS/SBRT is not considered a traditional type of surgery. As a result, you do not experience the risks associated with traditional surgery, such as increased discomfort and infection. Instead, it uses 3D imaging to target the high doses of radiation to the affected area, damaging the DNA of the targeted cells and causing the tumors to shrink. In areas where there may be motion of the tumor with respiration, 4D imaging may be used to increase the certainty that the treatment is delivered accurately to the tumor.

In regular radiation therapy treatment, healthy tissue also receives radiation. Because the radiation delivery is highly targeted in SRS/SBRT, there is minimal damage to the surrounding healthy tissue. This is especially important when targeting tumors in the brain, lungs, spine and other vital structures.

The benefits of SRS/SBRT are fewer treatments (often five sessions or less, depending on the location of the tumor), fewer side effects, and enhanced comfort. Your daily activities are minimally affected by the brief courses of treatment.

Stereotactic radiosurgery devices used within the Northwell Health Cancer Institute include:

Our approach

Northwell Health Cancer Institute is considered a pioneering leader in the use of stereotactic radiation therapy and was the first cancer center in Suffolk County, Long Island, to use the CyberKnife Robotic Radiosurgery System. We have been treating patients with this technology since 2008. Our radiation oncologists have years of experience and hold additional certification in the use of CyberKnife and other stereotactic radiosurgery devices.

At Northwell Health Cancer Institute, stereotactic radiation therapies are used to destroy cancer cells while minimizing radiation exposure to healthy tissue surrounding the tumor. It is provided in a caring and professional environment by specialists dedicated to making each patient visit as informative and stress-free as possible. This begins with an in-depth conversation describing the treatment, including what to expect, possible side effects and goals. The personalized treatment also includes careful consideration of current health, family history, age and patient preferences.

All radiation therapies are administered using evidence-based medicine. A multidisciplinary team of doctors—including radiologists, surgeons, pathologists, medical oncologists and radiology oncologists—collaborates on treatment plans to ensure that every aspect of a patient’s plan is precisely coordinated for the best possible outcome. This includes ongoing peer review and chart rounds.

Because convenience is a priority, we offer multiple locations for radiation therapy—enabling you to obtain treatment near where you live or work. 

Research at Northwell

Advances in radiation oncology are continuously happening at Northwell Health Cancer Institute, allowing us to provide better care and more innovative technologies and treatments for patients. Through alliances with leading research organizations such as Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, we participate in investigator-initiated trials to offer the most leading-edge therapies available. 

Northwell Health Cancer Institute is recognized worldwide for its commitment to providing pioneering treatment for cancer patients. Our ongoing focus on improving cancer treatments has contributed to significant advancements that are improving quality of life and survival rates for cancer patients.

Learn more about clinical trials and research happening at Northwell Health Cancer Institute.

What to expect

Stereotactic radiation therapy is a treatment performed on an outpatient basis, with treatments lasting approximately 30 minutes. The number of treatments required depends on the tumor size, location and shape. You will lie on a procedure table while the machine’s robotic arm moves to treat the tumor.

Possible side effects

Depending on the site of the treatment, side effects of stereotactic radiation therapy include:

  • Urination problems
  • Skin irritation
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Sexual impotence
  • Impaired bowel function

Most side effects usually go away after treatment ends. But you may feel very tired for four to six weeks after your last treatment. Talk to your doctor about ways to treat the side effects.

At Northwell Health Cancer Institute, your team of specialists is highly focused on preventing and managing side effects throughout and after your treatment.

Support groups

Cancer is challenging, but you don’t have to go it alone. At Northwell Health Cancer Institute, a wide range of support groups are available to help you cope with diagnosis, treatment and post-treatment issues.

Learn more about support groups.

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