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Five myths about CyberKnife radiosurgery

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Five Myths about CyberKnife Radiosurgery

You may have heard the term CyberKnife but not really know what it is, or whether it’s an appropriate treatment option for you. Perhaps you’ve seen a commercial about the procedure but are worried that it’s painful or invasive surgery. Whatever the case, if you’re determining what cancer treatment to pursue, it’s critical for you to be informed about all of your options, and to cut through myths or misinformation. Richard Byrnes, MD, who serves as the medical director of CyberKnife of Long Island, clears up some common myths about the CyberKnife procedure.  

Myth #1: CyberKnife is surgery. Despite its name, CyberKnife is not a surgical procedure and in fact involves no cutting at all. Instead, the CyberKnife System delivers a form of radiation therapy known as stereotactic radiosurgery. This system is designed to target and destroy cancer cells using high doses of very precisely targeted radiation. It is an outpatient procedure and can be a good option for patients who aren’t ideal candidates for surgery.

Myth #2: CyberKnife is only a treatment for prostate cancer. Since 2001, the CyberKnife System has been approved by the FDA for treatment of tumors anywhere in the body. CyberKnife radiosurgery can be an effective treatment for some non-cancer conditions as well, such as trigeminal neuralgia, a painful and debilitating condition. Every patient’s situation is different, so the best way to determine if CyberKnife is right for you is to talk to one of our experienced radiation oncologists at CyberKnife of Long Island.

Myth #3: CyberKnife will make me radioactive or have unpleasant side effects. “For most people, CyberKnife has no side effects,” says Dr. Byrnes. “You don’t get sick, you don’t get nauseous, you certainly don’t become radioactive, and you don’t lose your hair. A lot of people actually fall asleep during treatment.”

For prostate cancer patients, CyberKnife treatment is effective at avoiding unpleasant side effects such as incontinence and impotence. Some patients may experience rare side effects such as feeling nauseated, tired or dizzy. These side effects can usually be prevented with medications taken before or after treatment and should pass within a few hours of treatment. Your radiation oncologist will discuss any potential side effects with you.

Myth #4: CyberKnife is painful. CyberKnife radiosurgery is a painless procedure and does not require sedation or anesthesia. The experience is much like getting an X-ray. During treatment, you will lie on a table while a robotic arm moves around you and delivers radiation to your tumor from many directions. You may see and hear the CyberKnife machine moving to different treatment positions. You don’t need to be immobilized or hold your breath during treatment. Dr. Byrnes encourages his patients to dress comfortably and bring some music to listen to. 

Myth #5: I won’t be able to work or enjoy hobbies. Unlike some cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, CyberKnife radiosurgery allows patients to quickly resume their normal activities. Each treatment takes less than an hour over the course of one to five days. Many patients go back to work, go out to lunch or go golfing right after treatment. In fact, many patients and their families find the shorter course of treatment to be convenient and less stressful than other options. “Patients often don’t believe how fast and easy the treatment is going to be until they go through it,” Dr. Byrnes says.

Now that you know the facts, you may wonder if CyberKnife radiosurgery is right for you. To learn more about CyberKnife, contact Dr. Byrnes at CyberKnife of Long Island at (631) 864-5600.

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