Stereotactic radiosurgery is a highly targeted cancer treatment that has been in practice for more than 20 years. Despite its name, it does not require an invasive surgical procedure, but rather a unique, targeted approach to deliver precise high-dose radiation therapy. Carefully shaped radiation beams are used to destroy cancerous cells with great precision; using advanced technologies, neurosurgeons and radiation oncologists, working together, can pinpoint the radiation delivery field to within two millimeters of an intended target. Because of its exceptional accuracy, this treatment is often ideal for addressing tumors in hard-to-reach or delicate locations where traditional surgery may not be an option.
Benefits of stereotactic radiosurgery
Compared to conventional forms of radiation therapy, stereotactic radiosurgery allows radiation oncologists, together with neurosurgeons, to:
- Selectively target a cancerous lesion(s)
- Safely deliver the maximum prescribed dose of radiation therapy to a tumor in one to five sessions
- Minimize radiation exposure to healthy tissues surrounding an abnormal growth
Collectively, these three advantages often lead to exceptional control of tumors, as well as fewer side effects and a higher quality of life. And, in situations where the tumors are located near the sensitive brain or spinal cord tissues, radiosurgery may pose a lower risk of complications than traditional operations.
Stereotactic radiosurgery side effects
As was noted above, when compared to certain other cancer treatment methods, stereotactic radiosurgery produces fewer side effects. With that being said, it’s still possible for some side effects to occur, such as:
- Skin irritation and hair loss at the treatment site
- Neurological issues (for example, numbness, tingling, seizures and weakness)
- Gastrointestinal issues (for instance, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting)
These side effects are usually temporary, often resolving within just a few weeks. In many cases, medical providers are able to recommend treatments to counteract any resulting side effects (for example, a physician might prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication to reduce the swelling leading to headaches and nausea). Researchers are still working to determine whether there are any long-term side effects of stereotactic radiosurgery.
Moffitt’s approach to treating cancer with stereotactic radiosurgery
At Moffitt Cancer Center, our radiation oncologists, neurooncologists and neurosurgeons evaluate each patient’s unique diagnosis to determine the most beneficial treatment options. When a patient’s treatment plan includes stereotactic radiosurgery, the treatment is planned, prepared and provided by a collaborative team of radiation oncologists, neurosurgeons, radiation therapists, medical physicists, dosimetrists and supportive care providers. This team has great expertise in treating many different types of benign or malignant tumors, including hard-to-access tumors of the brain and spinal cord.
Anyone who is considering stereotactic radiosurgery or a similar treatment option does not need a physician referral to consult with the experts at Moffitt. To schedule an appointment, call 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online—we’ll be sure to put you in touch with a cancer expert within just one day. We welcome patients with all types of cancer and will develop an individualized treatment plan based on the specifics of a diagnosis.
Medically reviewed by Dr. Michael Vogelbaum and Dr. Michael Yu.
American Association of Neurological Surgeons: Stereotactic Radiosurgery