What is CyberKnife treatment?
CyberKnife treatment is an advanced form of radiotherapy called radiosurgery in which a robotic arm delivers high doses of focused beams of radiation to destroy tumours. The advantage of CyberKnife treatment as a form of radiation therapy is that it limits the amount of radiation the structures around the tumour are exposed to.
How is CyberKnife treatment performed?
Before a CyberKnife procedure, your doctor would schedule you for an MRI or CT scan to determine the exact part of your body to which the radiation should be directed.
Your doctor would advise you to avoid food intake for about 8 hours before you undergo the procedure. Additionally, if you are to have CyberKnife treatment for a brain tumour, you would be told to avoid hair cream or sprays.
You would also be asked to remove your dentures, eyeglasses, and contact lenses before the procedure commences.
After you have been prepared for the procedure, you would lie on a table which slides into a machine that delivers the radiation. A robotic arm which is controlled by your doctor and a radiation technologist moves around you, focuses on a specific part of your body and directs radiation energy.
You would be in the treatment room alone, your doctor would be in another room from where he can see you and communicate with you via intercom.
Each treatment session takes about 20 minutes to 2 hours, after which you can go home and resume your regular activities the next day if you do not develop any complications.
Depending on the type of cancer being treated, you may have another session on the same day, but no more than 5 sessions in a day.
How does CyberKnife treatment work?
CyberKnife treatment is a form of radiation therapy, hence uses radiation to treat cancer. Radiation works by breaking the DNA of cancer cells, impairing their division and killing them in the process.
Why is CyberKnife treatment performed?
CyberKnife treatment is recommended for treatment of cancer in patients for whom conventional surgery may be risky. These patients are either unhealthy enough for surgery or have the tumours located close to vital structures.
CyberKnife surgery is most commonly used for the treatment of brain tumours, especially deep brain tumours that are hard to remove during surgery. CyberKnife treatment is also commonly used for pituitary tumours and spinal cord tumours.
Other cancers which are treated using CyberKnife treatment include cancers of the kidney, breast, pancreas, prostate, and skin.
However, the use of CyberKnife treatment is not just limited to cancer therapy, it is employed for the treatment of epilepsy and movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.
What are the health risks associated with CyberKnife treatment?
Because CyberKnife focuses on a particular area of the body, it rarely causes significant damage to structures around the tumour being treated. However, a common side effect of CyberKnife treatment which occurs in patients who receive it for treatment of brain tumour is brain swelling. Although the swelling resolves spontaneously, it could require brain surgery in severe cases.