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Stereotactic Radiation Therapy

High Dose Radiation Treatments — SRS and SBRT — Are Available Close to Home in Columbia

What if there were a way to receive the benefits of surgery without actually having an operation? If such a thing were possible, it would be a lot like stereotactic radiation therapy. Indeed, this radiation treatment approach is sometimes called “radiosurgery.” However, it is actually a form of external beam radiation therapy.

At Central Maryland Radiation Oncology (CMRO), stereotactic radiation therapy involves a linear accelerator (“linac”) delivering very high doses of radiation in one or only a few treatment sessions. This form of radiation therapy is highly conformal. This means it is very precise and lines up very closely to the tumor to spare healthy cells. Being highly conformal makes stereotactic radiation therapy an ideal option for treating tumors near sensitive areas such as in the brain, liver, lung and spine.

Stereotactic radiation therapy is known as stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) when used to treat brain or spine tumors. It is called stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) when used for the rest of the body, usually the lung or liver.

Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS) in Columbia

SRS was the first stereotactic radiation therapy. It was created to treat inoperable brain tumors. Doctors could shrink the tumor with a single dose of high radiation. Other times, this treatment could slow the brain tumor’s growth.

Today, SRS is usually given in one to five treatment sessions. Dividing the radiation dose into a few, smaller SRS treatments can sometimes lessen treatment side effects. SRS can be used to treat small tumors in the brain and spine. These tumors can be malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous). SRS can also treat other issues within the brain, such as blood vessel malformations. The key is that the treatment area be small and well-defined.

Conditions SRS is used to treat include:

  • Recurrent brain cancer, or brain cancer that has returned
  • Brain metastases, or another cancer that has spread to the brain
  • Benign brain tumors, such as meningiomas and pituitary adenomas
  • Benign inner ear tumors, such as acoustic neuromas and vestibular schwannoma
  • Trigeminal neuralgia, and conditions of nerves in the head
  • Arteriovenous malformations, or abnormal blood vessels

Our radiation oncologists work closely with neurologists from Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland when providing SRS treatment to patients. Treatment involves gently immobilizing patients so they don’t move during therapy. Then, many small, narrow radiation beams are precisely directed at the tumor.

Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT)

Stereotactic radiation therapy works so well for brain tumors and other neurologic conditions that doctors are now using it for other parts of the body. When directed at tumors outside the brain and spine, this approach is called stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT).

Because SBRT is so precise, doctors can use higher amounts of radiation to target the tumor. Healthy tissues are spared from the radiation beam. Also, not as many treatment sessions are needed compared with traditional radiation therapy. This can be both convenient for patients and shorten the length of their radiation treatment course.

However, SBRT can only be used in special circumstances. The tumor must be well seen on imaging tests. If the tumor is too close to certain highly sensitive organs, large doses of radiation cannot be used all at once to treat it. Because of these things, SBRT is most often used for liver cancer and lung cancer.

For convenient stereotactic radiation therapy in Howard County, call us for a consultation at 443-546-1300.