Understanding Your CyberKnife Treatment Plan

With more than two decades of clinical proof, the CyberKnife System has helped thousands of cancer patients. It is a treatment unit that uses an image-guided linear accelerator mounted on a robotic arm to deliver Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS) and Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT). This simply means that precision beams of high-energy x-rays or photons provide noninvasive treatment of cancerous and non-cancerous tumors.

Using real-time image guidance and robotic precision, thousands of unique beam angles concentrate radiation on a tumor while avoiding healthy tissue. CyberKnife is ideal for some patients with tumors that are inoperable or surgically complex. The following are areas in the body where CyberKnife can be used:

  • Prostate
  • Lungs
  • Brain
  • Spine
  • Head and neck
  • Liver
  • Pancreas
  • Kidney

What to Know Before Your First CyberKnife Treatment Session

A consultation with a Radiation Oncologist and other physicians will determine if CyberKnife is right for you. If CyberKnife is determined to be the course of action best suited for your tumor or condition, your doctors will determine if your treatment requires soft tissue fiducial (seed) placement, which helps to accurately target the tumor and precisely guide the radiation beams.

If fiducials are placed, you will be scheduled to return one to two weeks later for imaging and simulation. This process may start with making a mask custom-molded to your face or a body immobilizer that will help prevent movement during treatment. These measures help you to relax during treatment, rather than trying to hold yourself completely still, which can be exhausting and stressful.

Next, you’ll receive fine-cut CT scans, which are transferred into the CyberKnife planning computers. Your radiation oncologist will then combine your CT studies with MRI or PET scans to map the tumor and all surrounding organs.

Depending on how complex your treatment will be, the treatment planning process may take a few days to complete. Once your plan is finalized, our team will contact you for treatment scheduling.

What to Expect During a CyberKnife Treatment

CyberKnife treatments typically require one to five sessions within a week to 10 days. The treatment plan depends on your specific case.

On the day of treatment, dress comfortably and do not wear jewelry. You can take all of your normal daily medications, except diuretics (water pills) before your treatment. After that day’s treatment, you’ll be able to take your diuretics.

The process begins with the CyberKnife radiation therapists taking X-ray images. They will have you lie on the treatment table, positioning you in your custom-molded mask or body immobilizer. During treatment, you will lie still and breathe comfortably and normally. If you feel cold, we’ll provide a blanket for warmth and comfort. Treatment sessions typically last between 30 and 120 minutes. To pass the time, you can listen to music or audiobooks. Because the treatment is painless, sedation is typically not required.

Your therapists will adjust the table to achieve the correct millimeter alignment for the system’s robotic arm to deliver treatment. This process repeats any number of times, with the CyberKnife system zeroing in on its target and the robotic arm realigning to deliver precise radiation beams to the tumor only.

If a tumor in your lung or upper abdomen is being treated, you will wear a vest and your breathing cycle will be closely and continuously tracked. The technology follows your breathing pattern, moving the robotic arm with your breathe in real-time, so it never loses its alignment with the tumor.

At the end of your treatment session, you’ll be given written discharge instructions. If you don’t require sedation or relaxation, you can typically return home and resume normal activities immediately afterward.

Want to learn more about CyberKnife? More than a thousand men and women diagnosed with cancer each year turn to our trusted team of cancer specialists. We encourage you to call us at 850-610-3743, ask us a question, or consult with us to get a second opinion, so you too can experience the difference.