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Frequently Asked Questions

Radiosurgery

For what types of cancer is radiosurgery used?

Radiosurgery was first innovated to treat brain and spinal tumors. Now, radiosurgery can be used to treat cancers almost anywhere in the body, including lungs, prostate, and liver. Radiosurgery is typically most suitable for early stage cancers, and small metastases.

Is radiation therapy used only to ablate tumors?

No. In addition to treating cancer, radiosurgery has also been shown to be beneficial for the treatment of some non-cancerous conditions. Radiosurgery can also be used to relieve symptoms like pain or pressure by shrinking the cancer when curing the cancer is not possible.

How does radiosurgery work?

Radiosurgery kills cancer cells by damaging their DNA—the molecules containing genetic information—which destroys their ability to divide and reproduce. Radiation can also kill normal cells, but cancer cells grow and divide more quickly than normal ones and are more susceptible to the damage from radiation. In addition, normal cells are better able than cancer cells to repair themselves and recover from the effects of radiation. When cancerous cells die, the tumor shrinks or stops growing.

How long does radiosurgery take?

Radiosurgery is delivered in one to five treatment sessions. A radiosurgery treatment can take from as little as two minutes to an hour, sometimes longer depending on your particular case. Ultimately, your clinical team will determine the length of each session.

Are radiosurgery treatments painful?

Some people report experiencing minor pain or discomfort during their treatment sessions, and a small number of people report a slight warming or tingling sensation in the area being targeted. You will not be able to see, smell, taste, or hear the radiation itself during treatment.

What are the side effects of radiosurgery?

As with all cancer treatments, radiosurgery has some potential side effects. Some of the most common side effects associated with radiosurgery are irritation or damage to the skin near the treatment site, fatigue, and nausea. Other side effects are usually specific to the type of cancer being treated, such as hair loss when the brain is treated, or potential urinary problems when the lower abdomen is treated. Your clinical team will inform you of any potential side effects you may experience.

Will radiosurgery make my hair fall out?

Radiosurgery typically affects the area of the body where the tumor is located. You may lose your hair if your treatment targets a part of the body that grows hair, such as your scalp.

Will radiosurgery make me nauseous?

Radiation therapy affects only those areas being treated, so if you are not receiving radiation to your abdomen, it is unlikely that you will experience nausea as a result of treatment. Some patients treated for brain tumors experience slight nausea as well. In some cases, a patient's nausea is caused by other aspects of his or her treatment, such as chemotherapy or pain medication.

Will I be able to drive after my radiosurgery treatments?

Almost all patients are able to drive during their course of treatment and, in fact, are able to continue all their normal daily activities, including work. You should, however, ask your doctor about your individual situation.

Can radiosurgery be given at the same time as other treatments?

Radiosurgery can be used as the first and only line of treatment for certain tumors. Some types of cancer, however, respond best to a combination of approaches, which could involve radiation plus surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and/or immunotherapy. When radiation therapy is used to increase the effectiveness of another type of treatment, it is called adjuvant therapy.