Brain Cancer Treatment

The CyberKnife® Robotic Radiosurgery System improves on other radiosurgery techniques by eliminating the need for a stereotactic frame to immobilize a patient during treatment. As a result, the CyberKnife System enables physicians to achieve a high level of accuracy in a noninvasive manner and affords patients the convenience of treatment on an outpatient basis. *

The CyberKnife System can pinpoint a tumor’s exact location in real time using X-ray images taken during the brain cancer treatment that reference the unique bony structures of a patient’s head.

 The CyberKnife System has a strong record of proven clinical effectiveness. It is used either on a stand-alone basis or in combination with other brain cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, surgery or whole-brain radiation therapy.

Before a typical CyberKnife treatment

CyberKnife brain cancer treatments involve a team approach in which several specialists participate. A team may include:

  • Neurosurgeon
  • Radiation oncologist
  • Medical physicist
  • Radiation therapist
  • Medical support staff

Once the team is in place, preparations begin for the CyberKnife treatment.

Unlike other radiosurgery systems – such as the Leksell Gamma Knife®  – the CyberKnife System does not require patients to be fitted with a rigid and invasive head frame. Before treatment planning occurs, the radiation therapist creates a soft mesh mask that is custom-fitted to the patient’s face. This comfortable and noninvasive mask helps the patient keep their head and neck still during treatment.

With the patient wearing the mask, a CT scan is performed. The CT data is used by the CyberKnife team to determine the exact size, shape and location of the tumor. An MRI, PET scan or angiogram also may be necessary to fully visualize the tumor and nearby anatomy. Once the imaging is completed, the face mask is removed and stored until CyberKnife treatment begins.

Treatment plan design

A medical physicist and the patient’s physician use the data gathered to design the patient’s treatment plan. The patient need not be present.

During treatment planning, the CT, MRI and/or PET scan data is downloaded into the CyberKnife System’s treatment planning software. The medical team determines the size of the area that must be targeted by radiation and the radiation dose, and indentifies critical structures where radiation should be minimized.

At this time, the CyberKnife System calculates the optimal radiation delivery plan to treat the tumor. Each patient’s unique treatment plan takes full advantage of the CyberKnife System’s extreme maneuverability, allowing for a safer and more accurate treatment.

After the brain cancer treatment plan is developed, the patient returns to the CyberKnife center for treatment. The physicians may choose to deliver the treatment in one session or stage it over several days. Typically, brain cancer treatment is delivered in one to five sessions.

The treatment session

For most patients, the CyberKnife treatment is a completely pain-free experience. They may dress comfortably in their street clothes and are free to bring music to listen to during the treatment. Patients also may want to bring something to read or listen to during any waiting time, and have a friend or family member accompany them to provide support before and after treatment.

 At treatment time, the patient lies on the table with his or her custom-fitted face mask secured in place. The CyberKnife System’s computer-controlled robot moves around the patient’s body to the various locations from which it delivers radiation to the tumor. Nothing is required of the patient during the treatment, except to relax and lie as still as possible.

After treatment

Once CyberKnife treatment is complete, most patients quickly return to their daily routines with little interruption of their normal activities. If treatment is being delivered in stages, the patient will need to return for additional treatments over the next several days, as determined by physicians.

Side effects vary from patient to patient. Some patients experience minimal side effects from CyberKnife treatments, and these often go away within a week or two. Physicians will discuss all possible side effects with their patients prior to treatment. They may also prescribe medication designed to control any side effects, should they occur.

After completing a CyberKnife radiosurgery treatment, it is important for patients to schedule and attend follow-up appointments. Each patient should be aware that his or her tumor will not suddenly disappear. Response to treatment varies from one person to another. Clinical experience has shown that most patients respond very well to CyberKnife treatments. Physicians will monitor the outcome in the months and years following a patient’s treatment, often using CT scans and/or PET-CT scans.

*Source material drawn from Please refer to that website for a complete listing of references used in the original information sections.

CyberKnife® is a registered trademark of Accuray Incorporated.

Leksell Gamma Knife® is a registered trademark of Elekta Instruments, Inc.

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