Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT)
An advanced radiation therapy technique that provides a non-surgical cancer treatment option for localized and secondary tumors
We are proud to offer a world-class service for stereotactic body radiation therapy—a specialized technique that can treat tumors with minimal damage to surrounding healthy tissue. Also known as stereotactic ablative radiation therapy (SABR), SBRT involves the use of advanced technology to deliver a beam of radiation to a tumor, destroying cancer cells within it. Treatment is given over three to five sessions, with no need for surgery or a hospital stay. SBRT can be used to treat localized tumors (where the cancer is only found in the tissues where it started) and delay the growth of secondary cancers (where the cancer has spread to other tissues in the body).
What’s different about SBRT?
Conventional radiation therapy such as intensity-modulated radiation therapy involves treatment of both the visible tumor and a small margin of surrounding tissues, in order to deal effectively with all the cancer that may be located in a particular part of the body. Treatment usually involves between 15 and 35 sessions over several weeks, and may be combined with chemotherapy. Conventional radiation therapy may be used on its own, or in combination with surgery. This is the right treatment for many people with certain cancers.
By contrast, SBRT targets just the cancer that can be seen, using much more focused beams of radiation and shorter treatment schedules. A minimal amount of healthy tissue is exposed to the radiation using this approach, meaning the side effects are usually mild, and many people get no side effects at all. And because the radiation dose is often higher than it is with conventional radiation therapy, the likelihood of tumor control is very good.
A number of studies have shown that SABR is beneficial over conventional radiation therapy for certain cancers with a limited number of metastases (areas where the cancer has spread to other sites in the body).
What does SBRT involve?
Our team comprises some of most experienced clinicians in their field who are proud to support you through your personal cancer journey.
Your treatment will involve an initial appointment with a GenesisCare physician who has the appropriate experience. You’ll then need to attend one of our SBRT centers for scans, which are used to plan how the treatment should be given, and possibly further outpatient tests.
Your planning scan
Your care team will call you before your planning scan to explain any preparation instructions in advance of your appointment, and to answer any questions. The appointment will involve a computed tomography (CT) scan and will last around an hour. You may also have a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan depending on the location of your cancer.
Your physician and an expert team of dosimetrists and physicists will then create a SBRT treatment plan that is specific to you, using the images from your scans.
SBRT is usually given in three to five sessions. Your care team will explain what will happen at each appointment, but here is a summary of the process:
The radiation therapists will help you get into the correct position on the treatment table and ensure you are comfortable. Surface guidance and image guidance technology will be used to precisely target your tumor and avoid normal adjacent tissues that need protection.
They’ll then leave the room, but you’ll still be able to speak to them via the intercom. Your favorite music will be available – be sure to let our team know what you like to listen to and we’ll make sure it’s available
The treatment will last between 10 and 40 minutes, depending on the area of your body being treated and the technique being used – the radiation therapy machine (called a linear accelerator, or linac) will move around you without touching you.
You can go straight home after each session. You are not radioactive at any point during or after treatment.
Your follow up
- Seven to ten days later: a member of your care team will call to see how you’re feeling and answer any questions you may have.
- Four to six weeks later: you’ll have a review with your GenesisCare physician to discuss your side effects and response to the treatment.
In the longer term, your care team will continue to follow up on your recovery and well-being through appointments, phone calls and emails.
Cancers treated using SBRT
Your GenesisCare physician will discuss your diagnosis, treatments to date and overall health with a multidisciplinary team of SBRT specialists. Together, you and your physician will decide if SBRT is right for you. They will explain the treatment plan to you, including any side effects you might experience and the outcome you can expect to achieve. You’ll have time to ask questions before you decide whether you want to proceed.
SBRT can be used to treat:
- Abdominal and pelvic tumors
- Tumors in the pancreas that haven’t spread around the body
- Tumors arising in the liver if the healthy liver is strong enough
- Secondary tumors in the liver, adrenal glands and lymph nodes
- Recurrent cancer in the pelvis after previous radiation therapy
- Prostate cancer, depending on the tumor stage
- Tumors in the kidney
- Secondary bone tumors (or metastases) in the rib cage, pelvis, leg, arm or spine. Often this is described as oligometastatic disease.
- Primary lung cancer and lung metastases
- Secondary tumors in the brain
Many prominent clinical studies around the world have shown the value of this treatment in improving outcomes at different stages of cancer and we are committed to making this available to our patients where possible.
What about side effects?
As with any cancer treatment, you may experience side effects. What you experience is often dependent on the location of the tumor. Your physician will discuss with you which of these are more likely to affect you.
You may experience the following during your treatment course, but they’ll usually start to improve within one to two weeks.
- Feeling tired
- Acid reflux
- Loose and frequent bowel movements
Serious long-term side effects are rare, but may include stomach ulcers or inflammation, duodenal (bowel inflammation), rib fracture, bowel or stomach perforation, bowel obstruction and kidney or liver failure.
Short-term side effects may include:
- Feeling tired
- Needing to pass urine more frequently
- Loose and frequent bowel movements
Serious long-term side effects are rare, but may include stomach ulcers or inflammation, duodenal (bowel inflammation), rib fracture, bowel or stomach perforation, bowel obstruction and kidney or liver failure. Men with pelvic cancer may experience problems getting an erection, and women may experience menopausal symptoms.
Short-term side effects
You may experience the following during your treatment course, but they’ll usually start to improve within three to four weeks.
Common short-term side effects include:
- Dry cough
Uncommon short-term side effects include inflammation of lung tissue, shortness of breath, fever and skin redness.
Long-term side effects
Commonly, you may experience pulmonary fibrosis (the scarring of lung tissue). Uncommon long-term side effects may include:
- Chest pain
- Rib fracture
- Nerve damage
- Heart damage
There’s a small risk that you may experience bone fracture around the area that was treated.
Your physician and our specialist care teams can advise you on the best way to deal with side effects and will be available during and after treatment should you have any questions. It’s important that you attend your follow-up appointments so we can identify and treat any problems as soon as possible.
As individuals, we all experience side effects differently. Take rest when you feel you need to and when possible, try to continue with your daily exercise or any work that you’re currently doing.
Our state-of-the-art centers are located in convenient destinations so you can access world-class cancer care close to home—allowing you to focus on your life, while we focus on treating your cancer.