Spinal Tumors Screening and Treatment

What Happens During the Screening and Treatment Process for Spinal Tumors Using CyberKnife?

Spinal Tumor Treatment

Spinal tumors can be treated with radiation therapy, which involves approximately 30 treatment sessions, chemotherapy or a combination of both. In the past few years, many patients and their physicians have been turning to radiosurgery to treat spinal tumors. Radiosurgery devices, such as the CyberKnife System can treat a tumor in one to five days by delivering a high dose of radiation with extreme accuracy.

Spine tumors present a treatment challenge because they move as the patient breathes.

Traditional radiation therapy usually cannot take this movement into account, so surrounding healthy tissue is also exposed to the radiation. Consequently, there are certain limitations that must be respected in order to prevent excessive damage to healthy tissues. These limitations may prevent adequate dosing to the tumor.

The CyberKnife can pinpoint a tumor’s exact location throughout treatment. In our CyberKnife suite, the patient is able to breathe normally during treatment while the doctor is able to target the moving tumor and focus hundreds of radiation beams from different angles, all of which intersect at the tumor. As a result, radiation is delivered more accurately and treatments can be performed in a shorter period of time.

Treating spinal tumors using CyberKnife involves a team approach, including several specialists such as a:
  • Neurosurgeon
  • Radiation oncologist
  • Medical physicist
  • Nurse coordinator
  • Radiation therapist
  • Other medical support staff

Set up, Imaging, Planning and CyberKnife Treatment for Spinal Tumors

First, the patient may be fitted for a custom body cradle, which is designed to help keep them more comfortable and maintain the same position for both imaging and treatment.

If the tumor is in the neck region, the patient also may be custom-fitted with a mesh facemask.

The patient will undergo a CT scan that is used by the CyberKnife team to determine the exact size, shape and location of the tumor. An MRI also may be needed to fully visualize the tumor and nearby tissues.

A medical physicist along with the treatment team then performs the treatment planning. The CyberKnife System calculates the optimal radiation delivery plan to treat the tumor.

The doctors may choose to deliver the treatment in one session, or stage it over several days. Treatments are completed in one to five days.

Throughout the treatment, more digital images of the spine will be taken to verify the tumor location. If the patient moves slightly, the change is detected by the imaging system, which automatically adjusts the robotic arm before delivering the radiation.

During treatment we encourage patients to relax and lie as still as possible. Patients often sleep through the treatment.

There are generally no side effects from CyberKnife treatments. However, occasionally patients report mild fatigue or temporary nausea, particularly if the lower abdomen is undergoing treatment. Prior to treatment, the physician will discuss with the patient all possible side effects he or she may experience. The doctor also may prescribe medication designed to control any side effects should they occur. After completing CyberKnife treatment, patients are scheduled for follow-up appointments.
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