Stereotactic body radiation therapy, or SBRT, is a cancer treatment that delivers extremely precise, very intense doses of radiation to cancer cells while minimizing damage to healthy tissue. SBRT involves the use of sophisticated image guidance that pinpoints the exact three-dimensional location of a tumor so that the radiation can be more precisely delivered to cancer cells.

Here are answers to some of the common questions our SBRT experts hear from patients.

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1. Which types of cancer can be treated using SBRT?

SBRT is typically used to treat small, early-stage lung cancer and pancreatic cancer, or cancers that have spread to the lung, liver, adrenal gland, or spine.

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2. How is SBRT delivered?

SBRT is delivered through devices called linear accelerators, which form beams of fast-moving subatomic particles.

At Memorial Sloan Kettering, doctors who specialize in radiation therapy, called radiation oncologists, use a computerized system to shape the radiation beams to match a three-dimensional outline of the tumor. This outline is generated by an MRI scan, which you will have before your procedure. Your radiation oncologist will collaborate with medical physicists to design a treatment plan that allows the delivery of radiation that conforms to the dimensions of your tumor.

SBRT is performed while you are lying on a table. Imaging technology on the linear accelerator helps ensure you are in the same position for every session and that the target area does not shift during treatment. You will be awake during the procedure, which usually takes between 30 minutes and an hour.

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3. What are the benefits of SBRT?

Conventional radiation is typically delivered in relatively small doses each day over several weeks. This can delay or interfere with other cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy. By contrast, SBRT can usually be given in five or fewer daily sessions and requires no anesthesia. SBRT also can lead to better outcomes and fewer side effects than conventional radiation therapy.

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4. Why choose Memorial Sloan Kettering for SBRT?

We have developed superior ways to use advanced imaging techniques that enable us to target tumors with extreme precision, leading to more effective treatment of your cancer while minimizing damage. In addition, patients at MSK are cared for by a multidisciplinary team of experts — which includes radiation oncologists, medical physicists, oncologists, and surgeons — that is among the most experienced in the world. 

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