FAQs Stereotactic Radiosurgery

Answers to Your CyberKnife Questions

What is the CyberKnife Robotic Radiosurgery System?

CyberKnife is a pain-free alternative to surgery for treating cancerous and noncancerous tumors. Stereotactic radiosurgery is a noninvasive treatment can be used for tumors in the head, spine, lung, prostate, liver and pancreas. 

CyberKnife robotic radiosurgery is offered only at select hospitals around the country. The CyberKnife Center at Saint Vincent Hospital is the only one in the region west of Boston through to New York State; north of Rhode Island and Connecticut; and on through to the Canadian border.

How does CyberKnife work?

CyberKnife delivers beams of high-dose radiation to tumors with extreme accuracy. This accuracy makes CyberKnife perfect for treating inoperable or surgically complex tumors and for patients looking for an alternative to surgery.

What are the benefits of being treated with CyberKnife stereotactic radiosurgery?

  • No pain
  • No incisions or scarring
  • No invasive head or body frame
  • No anesthesia
  • No hospitalization
  • Targets multiple locations during a single session
  • Accurately tracks tumors that move with breathing
  • Outpatient procedure of 30 to 90 minutes
  • Only one to five treatments little to no recovery time and quick return to normal activity

How long has CyberKnife been offered?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration first approved CyberKnife in 1991 to treat tumors in the head, neck and upper spine. In 2001, it was approved to treat tumors anywhere in the body.

How is CyberKnife different from traditional radiation treatment?

Traditional radiation therapy delivers radiation to a wide area, so it affects both the tumor and healthy tissue and increases the risk of side effects. This is because traditional radiation therapy doesn’t factor in tumor motion, making it less accurate than CyberKnife radiosurgery treatment.

CyberKnife stereotactic radiosurgery does factor in tumor motion. It delivers radiation with extreme accuracy, thereby minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue. Clinicians can deliver a higher dose of radiation safely because the radiation area is smaller and only includes the tumor and a small amount of surrounding tissue.

How is CyberKnife different from other radiosurgery systems?

There are three primary differences:

  1. Accuracy. Many tumors move during treatment (such as in the lungs when a patient breathes), even when the patient doesn't. CyberKnife combines advanced robotic technology and the ability to track tumor motion throughout treatment. It automatically adjusts for any tumor movement and delivers radiation with extreme accuracy. Other radiosurgery systems only use static images taken just before treatment, so they can't adjust.

  2. Mobility. While other systems are limited to clockwise/counterclockwise movement, CyberKnife’s robotic mobility enables it to deliver radiation beams from a wide range of angles and hundreds of different directions. This enables CyberKnife to deliver precise doses of radiation, with limited exposure to nearby areas.

  3. Sparing healthy tissue. CyberKnife is the only system that can deliver beams that factor in a patient's breathing or other movement. So, the prescribed dose is delivered on target — not to nearby healthy tissue.

How many CyberKnife treatments will I need?

Less damage to healthy tissue allows patients to complete treatment in one to five days, instead of the many weeks it takes with traditional radiation therapy.

Are there any side effects from CyberKnife treatment?

Usually there are minimal to no short-term side effects, and patients recover quickly. Depending on the area of the body being treated, some patients may experience mild fatigue or nausea. Your doctor will tell you what you can expect. After a treatment, most patients resume their normal activity.

How frequently can I receive a CyberKnife treatment?

Frequency depends on tumor location and type of tumor. Most patients can receive multiple CyberKnife treatments or retreatments.

Can I still have CyberKnife treatment if I’m having or had chemotherapy, radiation or proton therapy?

Yes. Provide your doctor with a complete medical history so the appropriate CyberKnife treatment is prescribed.

How can I find out if CyberKnife is right for me?

Talk to your doctor or call Saint Vincent Hospital CyberKnife Center at (508) 363-7664.