Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) is different from conventional radiation treatment. SBRT targets small tumors with large radiation doses without damaging nearby healthy tissue and organs. Healthcare providers use SBRT to treat small, isolated tumors that haven’t spread elsewhere in your body.
Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) is a technological advancement in the field of radiation therapy. It’s different from conventional radiation therapy because it delivers very concentrated radiation over a short period of time (days, not weeks). SBRT is used to treat small cancers that haven’t spread to other organs. It delivers large radiation doses while limiting the amount of radiation going to nearby healthy tissue and organs that could cause damage.
Stereotactic body radiation therapy is used to treat several kinds of cancer, including:
Both treatments help treat cancer. The differences are the amount of time spent in treatment and the radiation doses delivered on a daily basis:
Some people have fewer side effects from SBRT than conventional radiation therapy.
Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is a form of delivering external radiation that helps shape the radiation beam in a particular way. It’s often used for people receiving conventional radiotherapy. This treatment uses technology to shape the radiation beam to tightly fit around normal body parts. Healthcare providers typically use IMRT to treat head and neck cancer. People receiving SBRT may also receive IMRT. Your healthcare provider will decide what works best for you.
They may also use other ways to deliver external radiation, like:
Everyone’s experience may be a bit different, depending on the type of tumor being treated. But a general outline of what takes place before you receive SBRT is:
Cancer creates stress, whether you’re anticipating test results or waiting to be called in for treatment. Always feel comfortable talking to your healthcare provider about how you’re feeling and what might be causing anxiety. As you understand what you’re going through better, it may help lift the stress. If your upcoming SBRT has your stomach in knots, keeping busy while you wait may help. Here are some suggested activities:
Stereotactic body radiation therapy doesn’t hurt and is much like having an X-ray. Your healthcare provider will want you to be as comfortable as possible during treatment. It’s important to remember you can stop the treatment session any time you begin feeling anxious or uneasy. Here are steps that may take place during your treatment:
The technicians will help you up from the treatment table. They may ask you to wait about 15 minutes before leaving so they can check you for any signs of side effects.
Treatment side effects are different for each person, depending on the type of cancer and overall health. Common side effects for several cancer types include:
Studies show SBRT is an effective treatment for some cancers. SBRT lets healthcare providers target tumors while limiting radiation impact on nearby organs and tissues. SBRT also requires fewer treatments than conventional radiation treatment.
All radiation therapy comes with very small potential that you’ll develop cancer from your treatment. One of the benefits of being treated with SBRT is the treatment limits radiation impact on healthy organs and tissues. Your healthcare provider will check you regularly for any new or recurring cancer.
Most people can go back to work or resume other daily activities one or two days after treatment.
SBRT side effects are different based on the kind of cancer treated. Generally speaking, you’ll have a routine schedule of follow-ups after your treatment, so your healthcare provider can update you on how your cancer is doing and you can let them know about your experiences after treatment. You should call your healthcare provider if your side effects are different from what you expected. Contact your healthcare provider right away if you suddenly feel short of breath after SBRT for lung cancer.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Healthcare providers constantly seek better ways to treat cancer. Sometimes, that means using treatment intended for one cancer type to treat another cancer type. Stereotactic body radiation treatment (SBRT) is an example of that approach. SBRT is an effective way to treat small, isolated tumors in your lungs, prostate and liver while limiting damage to nearby vital organs. Not everyone will benefit from SBRT, so talk to your healthcare provider about your radiation treatment options. They’ll be glad to discuss your options and their recommendations.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/19/2022.
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