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Radiation Therapy

Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT)

Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT), also known as stereotactic ablative radiotherapy, is a cancer treatment that administers very high doses of radiation by using several beams of varying intensities aimed at different angles to precisely target the tumor. Because of its precision, SBRT can preserve surrounding healthy tissue, which is especially important for patients who have tumors near, or in, essential organs.

Benefits of SBRT

  • 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 a traditional radiation regimen
  • Performed in an outpatient setting at one of VOA’s offices

Examples of SBRT Uses for Cancer Treatment

  • Head and neck cancers
  • Spinal tumors
  • Bladder cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Early-stage lung cancer

How Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy Works

Stereotactic body radiation works similarly to other forms of radiation treatment. The radiation does not actually remove the tumor, but rather causes it to shrink -when the DNA of tumor cells is damaged, the cells are unable to reproduce. Malignant and metastatic tumors may shrink more rapidly, even within a couple of months.

SBRT 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.

SBRT may be used to deliver a single high dose of radiation, or several separate radiation doses (usually up to five treatments over a period of days).

Side Effects of Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy

Even though stereotactic body radiation therapy directs higher levels of radiation, it causes less damage to surrounding healthy cells since it is delivered to a limited area of the body.

Various types of cancer are treated with stereotactic body radiation therapy. Therefore, side effects will differ according to the area being treated. Although most of these side effects are short term, some long-term issues are possible, particularly when SBRT is used for head and neck cancers.

In addition to treating lung cancer, SBRT is often appropriate for treating certain head and neck cancers, 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)


  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Skin discoloration


  • Nausea
  • Cramps
  • Vomiting
  • 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, SBRT produces fewer side effects than traditional radiation treatments.