CyberKnife: A non-invasive alternative to surgery 

September 21, 2016 | by Neil A Das Gupta, MD

Remember back to the year 1999, when many of us thought our world would be turning into the Jetsons’ era filled with buildings high above the clouds and people driving around in flying cars? Though we haven’t reached that point yet, technology has come a long way since then.

As our technology advances, so do our cancer treatment options. Patients are receiving some of the newest advances in radiation therapy, like the CyberKnife® Robotic Radiosurgery System.

CyberKnife is state-of-the-art radiation therapy technology that involves no cutting. As the world’s first and only robotic radiosurgery system, treatment is designed to attack tumors throughout the body non-invasively. The system is pain-free and it is a great non-surgical option for patients who have inoperable or surgically complex tumors or who may be looking for an alternative to surgery.

With CyberKnife, radiation is delivered throughout the body using a robotic arm. The sophisticated software and advanced imaging tracks tumor and patient movement and adjusts the beams of high-dose radiation to ensure treatment is delivered with a high degree of accuracy, allowing physicians to zero in on the target tumor and irradiate it without harming the surrounding healthy tissue.  As a result, the CyberKnife treatment is more comfortable for patients, radiation is delivered more accurately, and treatments can be completed in one to five sessions. 

To top it off, CyberKnife is an outpatient procedure that requires little to no recovery time and allows for an immediate return to daily activities.

Here are a few common questions patients often ask:

What types of tumors can be treated with the CyberKnife? 
The CyberKnife Robotic Radiosurgery System is a non-invasive alternative to surgery for the treatment of both cancerous and non-cancerous tumors anywhere in the body, including the prostate, lung, brain, spine, liver, pancreas, and kidney. In addition, CyberKnife is also used to relieve the painful nerve disorder, Trigeminal Neuralgia.

What happens before treatment?
Before the procedure, the patient will receive a CT scan to determine the size, shape and location of the tumor. After the CT scan, the image of the tumor will be transferred to the CyberKnife System’s workstation. This is where treatment planning starts. After the radiation dosage has been determined, treatment begins.

What happens during treatment?
During treatment, the CyberKnife System’s computer-controlled robot will slowly move around the patient to deliver radiation to the tumor. The one-of-a-kind device enables patients to breathe normally and relax comfortably during treatment without restraints.

How long does treatment last?
Most treatment sessions typically last 30 – 90 minutes depending on the size, shape and location of your tumor.

What side effects can I expect?
Most patients recover quickly and experience minimal, if any, side effects.  Depending on the treatment site, some patients may experience mild fatigue or nausea. Your physician will help you prepare for possible side effects before treatment.

The technology used in the CyberKnife System promises a bright future for further advances in cancer treatment. What will be next?

How have you seen cancer technology advance? Tell us in the comments below. 

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and CyberKnife is an advanced treatment option for patients with prostate cancer. Learn more about the disease, including the signs and symptoms and early detection through prostate health screenings.

Learn more about cancer treatment options at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

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