What Is Stereotactic Radiosurgery?



Radiation oncologist Kathryn Beal describes new methods of treating brain tumors with high doses of radiation that spare healthy brain tissue.

Stereotactic radiosurgery, or SRS, is a method for delivering radiation to brain tumors, which may be given in place of surgery. It is used to treat tumors that start in the brain as well as brain metastases (cancer that has spread to the brain from other parts of the body).

The technique uses advanced imaging technologies combined with sophisticated computer guidance to deliver a highly targeted and intense dose of photon radiation. The radiation conforms to the three-dimensional shape and size of a tumor, resulting in minimal exposure to the rest of the brain and fewer side effects than conventional radiation techniques.

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1. Which patients are good candidates for SRS?

Stereotactic radiosurgery has become an increasingly common approach for patients who have smaller brain tumors. Other candidates for stereotactic radiosurgery also include those patients whose disease is not surgically accessible or is too advanced for neurosurgery, as well as those who cannot tolerate anesthesia.

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2. How is SRS given?

To deliver stereotactic radiosurgery, a radiation oncologist uses a computerized system to shape the radiation beam to match a three-dimensional outline of the tumor. This outline is generated by MRI and CT scans, which you will have before your procedure.

Radiation oncologists at Memorial Sloan Kettering collaborate closely with medical physicists to design a treatment plan that allows the delivery of radiation that conforms to the dimensions of your tumor.

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3. What are the benefits of SRS?

The technique allows the radiation to be delivered with greater precision to the cancerous tissue than other types of radiation therapy, sparing the surrounding healthy brain tissue from any significant dose. The system also controls the intensity of the beam so that no area gets too large a dose.

SRS helps avoids the risk of hemorrhage, infection, and anesthesia that come from surgery. It can be done as an outpatient treatment, and requires only minimal interruption of other treatments, such as chemotherapy. The results for SRS for brain metastases appear to be equivalent to the results for surgery to remove the tumor.

This single-day, high-dose treatment can also replace other types of radiation therapy that are delivered in lower daily doses for a longer period of time (usually several weeks).

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4. Why should I choose Memorial Sloan Kettering for stereotactic radiosurgery?

At Memorial Sloan Kettering, patients with primary brain tumors and brain metastases are cared for by a multidisciplinary team of experts — which includes radiation oncologists, medical physicists, neurosurgeons, neurologists, neuro-radiologists, and expert nursing staff — that is among the most experienced in the world, treating hundreds of people with stereotactic radiosurgery every year.

Memorial Sloan Kettering experts have been leaders in the delivery of stereotactic radiosurgery, leading trials that have extended patients’ lives and improved their quality of life.

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