Radiotherapy, also known as radiation therapy, is a common treatment for cancer that involves using high-energy radiation to destroy cancer cells or slow their growth.
There are different types of radiotherapy, and the type of radiotherapy used depends on the type and location of the cancer and the patient’s overall health. Some common types of radiotherapy include:
- External beam radiation therapy: This is the most common type of radiotherapy, which involves using a machine to direct high-energy beams of radiation from outside the body into the cancerous tissue.
- Internal radiation therapy (brachytherapy): This radiotherapy involves placing a small radioactive source inside or near the cancerous tissue.
- Systemic radiation therapy: This type of radiotherapy involves using radioactive materials that can be swallowed or injected into the body to target cancer cells throughout the body.
- Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT): This type of radiotherapy delivers high doses of radiation to small, well-defined tumors with extreme precision, often using advanced imaging techniques to guide the treatment.
- Proton therapy: This type of radiotherapy uses high-energy protons rather than X-rays to destroy cancer cells. Proton therapy can deliver a high dose of radiation to the tumor while minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue.
- Carbon ion therapy: This is a type of radiotherapy that uses carbon ions, which can penetrate deeper into tissue than traditional radiation, to deliver a more targeted dose of radiation to the cancerous tissue.
Although this article majorly focuses on Stereotactic body radiation therapy.
Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) is a specialized form of external beam radiation therapy that delivers high doses of radiation to small, well-defined tumors with extreme precision. It is also sometimes called stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR).
The goal of SBRT is to deliver a very high dose of radiation to the tumor while minimizing radiation exposure to the surrounding healthy tissues. This is achieved by using advanced imaging techniques, such as CT scans, MRIs, or PET scans, to precisely locate the tumor and guide the radiation beams.
SBRT is typically used to treat tumors that are small and well-defined, such as those found in the lungs, liver, pancreas, or spine. It can be an effective treatment option for people who are not good candidates for surgery, or for those who prefer a non-invasive treatment option.
SBRT is usually delivered in a few (usually 1-5) high-dose treatments, compared to conventional radiation therapy, which is typically delivered in lower doses over several weeks. This shorter treatment course may be more convenient for patients and may help reduce the risk of side effects.
However, SBRT can still cause side effects, such as fatigue, skin irritation, and nausea. Patients need to discuss the potential risks and benefits of SBRT with their doctor before starting treatment.
Which type of cancer can be treated with SBRT?
Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) can be used to treat a variety of cancer types. It is most commonly used to treat tumors that are small and well-defined, such as those found in the lungs, liver, pancreas, or spine.
SBRT is effective in treating early-stage non-small cell lung cancer, as well as certain types of liver cancer and pancreatic cancer. It may also be used to treat spinal tumors, prostate cancer, and other types of cancer.
In general, SBRT is most effective when the tumor is small and has not spread to other parts of the body. It may be used as the primary treatment for early-stage cancer or as a complementary treatment alongside other cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or surgery.
Patients need to talk to their doctor about whether SBRT is a suitable treatment option for their specific type and stage of cancer.
Can it be used to treat illnesses other than cancer?
While stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) is primarily used for the treatment of cancer, it may also be used to treat certain non-cancerous conditions, such as certain types of benign tumors or vascular malformations.
For example, SBRT may be used to treat certain types of benign brain tumors, such as meningiomas, acoustic neuromas, and pituitary adenomas. It may also be used to treat arteriovenous malformations (AVMs), which are abnormal tangles of blood vessels in the brain.
In addition, SBRT may be used to treat certain types of spinal conditions, such as spinal cord compression or painful vertebral tumors.
However, it is important to note that SBRT is primarily a cancer treatment, and the use of SBRT for non-cancerous conditions is still relatively uncommon. Patients should talk to their doctor about whether SBRT is a suitable treatment option for their specific condition.
What are the benefits of SBRT?
There are several benefits to using stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) to treat cancer. These include:
- High precision: SBRT uses advanced imaging techniques to precisely locate the tumor and guide the radiation beams, which allows for very high precision in targeting the tumor. This helps to minimize radiation exposure to surrounding healthy tissues and organs.
- High dose delivery: SBRT delivers a very high dose of radiation to the tumor in a short amount of time, which can be more effective at killing cancer cells than conventional radiation therapy.
- Fewer treatment sessions: SBRT typically requires fewer treatment sessions than conventional radiation therapy, which can be more convenient for patients and may also reduce the risk of side effects.
- Non-invasive: SBRT is a non-invasive treatment option, which means it does not require surgery or anesthesia.
- Effective for inoperable tumors: SBRT may be an effective treatment option for people who are not good candidates for surgery or who prefer a non-invasive treatment option.
- Reduced risk of complications: SBRT can help to reduce the risk of complications associated with surgery or other invasive procedures.
It is important to note that not all patients with cancer are suitable candidates for SBRT, and the potential benefits and risks of the treatment should be discussed with a doctor.