CyberKnife treatments involve a team approach in which several specialists participate. Following is a description of what you can expect during your visit.
Prior to the procedure, the patient is imaged using a high-resolution CT scan, to determine the size, shape, and location of the tumor.
Following scanning, the image data is digitally transferred to the CyberKnife System’s workstation, where the treatment planning begins.
A qualified clinician then uses the CyberKnife software to generate a 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.
Once the treatment plan has been developed, the patient is ready to undergo the CyberKnife procedure.
After arriving at the CyberKnife Center, patients are comfortably positioned on the treatment table.
Then, the CyberKnife System’s computer-controlled robot slowly moves around the patient to the various locations from which it will deliver radiation to the tumor.
Each treatment session will last between 30 and 90 minutes, depending on the type of tumor being treated. If treatment is being delivered in stages, patients will need to return for additional treatments over several days (typically no more than five), as determined by the patients’ doctor.
Patients may experience some minimal side effects, but those often go away within the first week or two after treatment.
Common Treatment Sites
Although not every patient is a candidate for the treatment, below is a list of some, but not all, of the intra-cranial and extra-cranial tumors and lesions that can be treated by the CyberKnife System:
- Anaplastic astrocytoma
- Arteriovenous malformation (AVM)
- Many brain, head and neck tumors
- Hepatocellular carcinoma
- Small-cell and Non-small cell lung cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
Renal cell carcinoma
If you are undergoing CyberKnife treatment for a spinal or body (non-head) lesion, you may require a short outpatient procedure to implant several small metal markers (fiducials) near the tumor to enable the CyberKnife system to track tumor position throughout treatment. Lesions in the head do not require this step.
Making a Mask or Body Mold
A custom soft mask (for head/neck treatments) or body mold is formed and used to help minimize movement during the treatment and ensure your comfort. The process is simple and painless.
You will receive a CT scan in order to pinpoint the exact location of the tumor. The CT data is then downloaded to the CyberKnife treatment-planning computer where physicians will use advanced software to customize the number, intensity, and direction of radiation beams the robot will send to the target. You will not need to be present during this last step.
Wear comfortable clothing and no jewelry. Try to relax, knowing this will be a painless procedure. Feel free to bring a list of questions to ask the CyberKnife team. The team is there to ensure your comfort and safety.
You will be asked to lie on the treatment table and be fitted with the custom mask or body mold made earlier during the set-up process. Generally, no sedation or anesthesia is required because the treatment is painless.
During treatment, you will need to lie still. You will be awake throughout the entire procedure, which typically lasts 30-90 minutes depending on the complexity of your tumor. The image-guidance system periodically takes x-ray images and compares them to data from the CT scan to ensure the radiation is targeted accurately to the tumor.
If you are undergoing single-session radiosurgery treatment, your treatment is complete, and you can usually leave the facility and resume normal activity immediately. If your physician prescribes a “hypo-fractionated” or staged treatment, you will need to return for additional daily treatments (you will need to return for no more than four additional treatment days).
As with any radiosurgery or radiation therapy procedure, follow-up imaging and physician consultation is required to monitor your tumor’s progress.