Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS)
Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS) is an advanced type of radiation therapy. Despite its name, SRS is a non-surgical procedure as it requires no incision. SRS delivers precisely-targeted radiation at much higher doses than traditional radiation therapy, which can preserve surrounding healthy tissue.
SRS is ideal for treating areas that cannot be treated with traditional surgical methods, such as inoperable brain tumors.
Benefits of SRS
- Non-surgical, non-invasive, and painless
- Ideal for hard-to-reach tumors as well as those that are close to critical organs
- Less treatment time compared to traditional radiation regimen
- Performed in an outpatient setting at one of VOA’s offices
Examples of SRS Uses for Cancer Treatment
- Spinal tumors
- Prostate cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Early stage lung cancer
- Brain tumors or, as an alternative to whole brain radiation
- Cancers that have metastasized to the brain, lung or liver
How Stereotactic Radiosurgery Works
Stereotactic Radiosurgery works similarly to other forms of radiation treatment. The radiation does not actually remove the tumor, but rather causes it to shrink. By damaging the DNA of tumor cells, they are unable to reproduce. Malignant and metastatic tumors may shrink more rapidly, even within a couple of months.
SRS treatment requires specific, 3D-imaging technology. This imaging is used to locate the tumor within the body and define the exact size and shape as well as guide the treatment plan and positioning of the patient for treatment. Treatment is delivered with a linear accelerator.
Side Effects of Stereotactic Radiosurgery
Even though stereotactic radiosurgery directs higher levels of radiation, it causes less damage to surrounding healthy cells since it is delivered at a limited area of the body.
Various types of cancer are treated with stereotactic radiosurgery. The side effects differ according to the area being treated. Although most of these side effects are short term, some long-term issues are a possibility, particularly when SRS is used on the brain, head, and neck.
Patients with brain lesions or tumors often experience immediate side effects after stereotactic radiosurgery that include:
- Orbital pain (Pain occurring within the eye)
These side effects are usually mild and short-lived. In rare instances, however, more severe neurological deficits occur such as memory issues, seizures, speech, and reasoning issues. Some patients experience brain swelling. Other short-term side effects patients may experience include:
- Hair loss
- Skin issues
- Hearing loss
Sometimes, side effects appear months or even years after the SRS treatment ends. Because of this, patients are advised to be vigilant long after they initially heal.
Other Areas of the Body
SRS is often appropriate for the treatment of lung cancer as well as treatment for other head and neck cancers besides the brain, liver cancer, prostate cancer, cancer of the spine, lung cancer and abdominal cancer. Ongoing research is being done to determine what other cancers might benefit from the treatment. Side effects include:
Head and Neck
- Sore throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Changes in appetite and taste
- Tooth decay (more frequent dental check-ups may be needed)
- Sore throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Skin discoloration
- Skin issues including soreness
Swelling, as well as long-term effects such as thickening and surface changes, may occur on any part of the body treated with radiation. However, most side effects are short term and will resolve on their own. It is important to understand that new issues can occur long after cancer treatment ends. Patients should contact their oncologist if they notice problems in the treatment area or other general health problems. Overall, SRS produces fewer side effects than traditional radiation treatments.