Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS)

Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS) is an advanced type of radiation therapy. Despite its name, Stereotactic Radiosurgery 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 Stereotactic Radiosurgery

  • 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 our Compass locations

Examples of SRS Uses for Cancer Treatment 

  • Brain tumors or, as an alternative to whole brain radiation 
  • Cancers that have metastasized to the brain, lung or liver
  • Early stage lung cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer 
  • Spinal tumors

How Does Stereotactic Radiosurgery Work?

Stereotactic Radiosurgery works similarly to other forms of radiation treatment. Radiation therapy does not actually remove the tumor, it causes the tumor to shrink. By damaging the cells of the tumor, it becomes unable to grow. 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. SRS treatment is delivered with a linear accelerator.

What are the Side Effects of Stereotactic Radiosurgery?

Even though SRS directs higher levels of radiation to the cancer, 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.

Brain

Patients with brain tumors or lesions often experience immediate side effects after stereotactic radiosurgery that include:

  • Dizziness/vertigo
  • Headaches 
  • Nausea
  • Orbital pain (Pain occurring within the eye)
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Hearing loss
  • Skin issues

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. Sometimes, side effects appear months or even years after the SRS treatment ends.

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
  • Earaches
  • Tooth decay (more frequent dental check-ups may be needed)

Abdomen

  • Cramps
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Skin issues including soreness

Lung 

  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Skin discoloration

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 cancer care team if they notice problems in the treatment area or other general health problems. Overall, SRS produces fewer side effects than traditional radiation treatments.