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Frequently asked questions

What is CyberKnife?

The CyberKnife® Robotic Radiosurgery System is a noninvasive alternative to surgery for the treatment of both cancerous and noncancerous tumors anywhere in the body, including the head, spine, lung, prostate, liver and pancreas.  

Despite its name, CyberKnife involves no cutting or surgery. CyberKnife is the world’s first and only robotic radiosurgery system designed to treat tumors throughout the body noninvasively. CyberKnife’s advanced technology is able to track the natural movements of tumors that occur with breathing, and thus avoid sending radiation to healthy tissue or organs surrounding the tumor. It provides a painless, nonsurgical option for patients who have inoperable or surgically complex tumors, or who may be looking for an alternative to surgery.

How is the CyberKnife System different from other radiosurgery technology?

Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) is a nonsurgical radiation therapy used to treat functional abnormalities and small tumors of the brain. It can deliver precisely targeted radiation in fewer high-dose treatments than traditional therapy, which can help preserve healthy tissue. When SRS is used to treat body tumors, it’s called stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT). CyberKnife is a technology that delivers both stereotactic radiosurgery and stereotactic body radiation therapy treatments.

Tumors have been shown to move slightly with the body during radiation treatment, despite your best efforts to stay motionless. The CyberKnife, unlike other stereotactic radiosurgery systems, uses a highly flexible robotic arm and image guidance to locate and track the position of the tumor without the use of a headframe (pins screwed into your forehead), being strapped down or having to hold your breath. The system compensates for your breathing and movement during treatment, consistently ensuring accurate targeting for the delivery of radiation beams.

What are the benefits of CyberKnife?

  • Pinpoint accuracy. CyberKnife is so precise that higher doses of radiation can be delivered because there’s less chance of damaging healthy tissue in the surrounding areas. This reduces the duration and number of treatments required to treat your cancer.
  • Outpatient capability. CyberKnife of Long Island offers CyberKnife treatment in our comfortable and convenient office location, so there is no need to go to a hospital.
  • No surgery, incisions or blood loss. In some cases, we may need to place tiny pellets (called fiducial markers) into the tumor so it’s easier to spot, but that’s a minor procedure. In fact, CyberKnife is ideally suited for those who are unable to undergo surgery or who do not wish to risk surgery.
  • Fast treatment. Treatment is completed in up to five sessions, with each treatment taking an hour or less. This shorter treatment course is more convenient and less stressful for you and your family.
  • Painless procedures. Much like an X-ray, you don’t feel anything during CyberKnife treatment, so there’s no pain or sensation and no need for anesthesia or sedation.
  • Minimal side effects. CyberKnife treatment doesn’t cause you to feel sick and won’t result in hair loss. 
  • Little to no recovery time. You can return to normal activities the same day.
  • Comfort. CyberKnife does not require a headframe or immobilization device and you don’t have to hold your breath.

What types of conditions are considered for CyberKnife treatment?

The CyberKnife System can be used to treat both cancerous and noncancerous tumors anywhere in the body, including the brain, head and neck, spine, lung, liver, kidneys, pancreas and prostate. It can also be an effective treatment in conjunction with or after other forms of cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy.

Since diagnosis and treatment options vary based on the individual, the best way to know if CyberKnife is right for you is to discuss your situation with one of our experienced radiation oncologists at CyberKnife of Long Island. 

Is the CyberKnife System FDA approved?

Yes. The CyberKnife System has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of head, neck, and upper spine tumors since 1999, and for tumors anywhere else in the body since 2001.

Is CyberKnife safe?

CyberKnife does not present the same problems as traditional surgery. Anesthesia is not necessary and the risk of infection and hemorrhaging are minimized. CyberKnife offers accurate precision within submillimeter distances and spares healthy tissue surrounding the targeted area.

CyberKnife is based on radiation technology that has been proven for more than 30 years. Thousands of patients have received CyberKnife treatments worldwide, and numerous clinical studies showing its safety have been published in peer-reviewed medical journals.

Who determines if CyberKnife is an appropriate treatment?

CyberKnife is a highly specialized technology, so our CyberKnife experts are best suited to determine whether or not it is an appropriate treatment option for you. If CyberKnife turns out to not be the right choice for you, we have alternative treatment options available in our practice and through other Northwell Health locations.

Am I still eligible for CyberKnife treatment if I have previously been treated for cancer? 

Yes. CyberKnife is still an option if you have had radiation therapy, chemotherapy or other cancer treatments. Please discuss your specific situation with your CyberKnife of Long Island radiation oncologist. He or she can determine whether you are a candidate for CyberKnife or if you would benefit more from another treatment option.

If I already had CyberKnife, can I have it again?

In most cases, you can be re-treated with the CyberKnife System if necessary. How often the CyberKnife treatment can be administered is dependent upon the type and location of the tumor being treated.

How much does a CyberKnife procedure cost?

The CyberKnife procedure, like other stereotactic radiosurgery, is generally covered by most insurance plans as well as Medicare. Our billing staff is available to assist you with any question you may have concerning your coverage and out of pocket requirement. You can see what insurance plans we accept here

Do I need to have a consultation before treatment?

Yes. A CyberKnife of Long Island radiation oncologist will meet with you to discuss your diagnosis and treatment options. Your medical records will be reviewed to help determine whether pre-treatment procedures are needed. Our CyberKnife nurse coordinator will assist you during your first visit and help address your needs and concerns throughout the entire process.

What is a fiducial marker?

Some tumors may require the placement of fiducial markers (tiny pellets) into the tumor. The fiducials serve as reference points for the location of the tumor during treatment, since the tumor is not attached to bone and continually moves.

What needs to happen before my CyberKnife treatment?

After your consultation with your radiation oncologist and placement of your fiducial marker (if necessary), you will undergo imaging procedures, such as a CT scan and MRI, to determine the size, shape and location of the area to be treated.

Your CT scan images are then downloaded to the CyberKnife treatment planning computer, where our experienced radiation oncologists and expert medical physicists use advanced software to develop a customized treatment plan. The plan is used to match the desired radiation dose to the identified tumor location while limiting radiation exposure to the surrounding healthy tissue.

Who will be involved in my treatment?

We use a team approach in your treatment decision, planning and delivery of treatment. Your CyberKnife team will include your radiation oncologist, a medical physicist, a nurse and a radiation therapist.  

Can I eat or drink before my CyberKnife treatment?

Yes, it will not affect your treatment at all.

What does treatment feel like and how long does it take?

You can dress comfortably in your own clothes and bring music to listen to during the treatment. During the procedure, you will lie on a table while a robotic arm moves around you and delivers beams of radiation to your tumor from many directions.

You may hear and see the CyberKnife machine moving and setting up for the next position in treatment, but the treatment itself is painless. You will not feel anything as the radiation is delivered.  Relaxing and lying still are the best things you can do.

Each treatment takes less than an hour over the course of one to five days. When your appointment is over, you can usually return to your normal activities.

What happens after my treatment?

The effects of radiosurgery occur gradually and over a period of time. The time frame can range from days, months or years depending on the medical condition targeted. Some tumors dissolve slower than others and eventually disappear. Others simply stop growing and show no further cell activity.

After treatment is completed, you will likely be asked to get periodic images (CT scan or MRI) of your tumor(s) so that your physician can monitor the effectiveness of the radiation.

What are the side effects of CyberKnife treatment?

Typically, there are no side effects after a CyberKnife treatment and you can return to normal activities immediately. However, 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.

The radiation delivered by CyberKnife is so focused on a specific target that it is highly unlikely that hair loss or skin burn will occur. Typically, the radiation dose administered is not sufficient to cause permanent damage to the skin or hair follicles. In the event that an intracranial (within the skull) lesion being treated is close to the scalp, a patch of hair may be affected. The hair will grow back.

Your CyberKnife of Long Island radiation oncologist will discuss any possible side effects with you prior to and after your treatment.

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