A Guide to Stereotatic Radiosurgery

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There are two forms of stereotactic radiotherapy. There is Stereotactic Radiosurgery and Stereotactic Radiotherapy. For information on Stereotactic Radiosurgery, please see the page below. For information on Stereotactic Radiotherapy, please see Stererotactic Radiotherapy


Stereotactic radiosurgery is a very precise treatment to a small area of the brain. To ensure that the treatment position is reproduced accurately you will need to have a special frame made. The majority of patients find the head frame reasonably comfortable to wear.  
The head frame serves three main purposes: 

1.      It enables accurate reproducibility of the treatment position for each planning and treatment session.

2.      It prevents movement of your head during the treatment

3.      It removes the need for ink marks on your head or face. 

For single fraction stereotactic radiosurgery there are usually three planning visits needed before the treatment can be delivered. This leaflet aims to give a brief description of the planning and treatment process.

First visit
At this appointment the frame attachments will be made specifically for you. The frame is fitted and held secure on your head in two ways: 

 Making the mouth bite: Once a correct size denture plate has been chosen for you it will be filled with the soft impression material. The denture plate is then placed into your mouth and you will be asked to bite on it to form a clear impression. The material sets in your mouth but will not stick to your teeth. The material takes about 4 minutes to set. Once it has set the plate will be removed from your mouth and attached to the main frame.

 Making the back plate: A putty-like material is placed on the back plate that is also attached to the main frame. The frame is placed over your head and the mouth bite fitted onto your teeth. The back plate is then rested against the back of your head and held securely in place for a few minutes until it has set.

The frame is then secured into place by straps across your head. Once the frame has been made and is fitting well we do some measurements to ensure that the frame can be relocated in the same position at each visit. To take the measurements we use a clear plastic helmet, called a depth helmet and a measuring probe. These measurements are taken with you lying down so that you are in the same position as you will be for your treatment. Two or more sets of measurements will be done on your first visit. Further sets of measurements will be taken before any planning or treatment.  To make the frame and take the initial measurements takes approximately one hour.  

Second visit  At this appointment a CT scan will be taken of you positioned in the head frame. During the scan you may be given an injection of contrast: this is a dye that helps to highlight the area needing treatment. The appointment usually lasts about 30 minutes.  

The Oncologist will use the information from this scan to plan your radiotherapy and this process normally takes a couple of weeks.  


Third visit 
The purpose of this visit is to check that your treatment plan is correct. This process is called verification and is carried out on a x-ray machine called a simulator. A set of x-rays will be taken of you positioned in the head frame. This appointment normally lasts about an hour.

Treatment: Treatment is given in one of the radiotherapy treatment rooms. At each treatment the head frame will be fitted and measurements taken to ensure that it has been located correctly. You will be positioned for treatment using the room lasers and lights.

Whilst the machine is switched on the radiographers will leave the room but will be watching you on close circuit TV. They can stop the treatment at any time. You will not feel anything during treatment but may be aware of a buzzing sound. The treatment is divided into several fields with the treatment machine positioned slightly differently for each. Each treatment field takes about one minute and the radiographers will come into the treatment room between fields. The whole treatment takes about 20 minutes to deliver.

Each week throughout the course of your treatment you will have an opportunity to see either the doctor or a specialist radiographer to discuss any problems or queries that arise.

The radiotherapy will not make you ill and you will be well enough to travel. You may or may not be allowed to drive yourself. This should be discussed with you doctor prior to treatment.

Medication If you are currently taking steroids, the dose is often kept at the same level between leaving hospital after your operation and starting radiotherapy. This dose may be adjusted during your radiotherapy following discussion with the doctor.

Side effects Any side effects vary from person to person. The type and site of your tumour may also determine the side effects you experience. The most common side effects you may experience are listed below:

Hair loss  Unfortunately you will lose your hair in the area being treated. This normally happens two to three weeks after the commencement of the radiotherapy. We try to arrange treatment so that your hair will re-grow, but your treatment will never be compromised for the sake of keeping your hair. Hair can take a long time to re-grow following radiotherapy. A wig can be organised for you if required. During radiotherapy you can continue to wash your hair normally but using a mild baby shampoo. The hair should be gently towel dried and a hairdryer should not be used.

Skin  The skin in the treatment area may gradually redden from the second week of treatment onwards. It may become dry, itchy and sore especially around the ears if they are in the treatment area. To minimise dryness and irritation aqueous lotion may be used in the treatment area. During the summer months the area should be protected from the sun to prevent sun damage. Any reaction will soon clear up after treatment has finished.

Tiredness This side effect varies greatly from person to person. Generally it increases throughout the radiotherapy and may last for a few weeks after completion of your treatment (see information on coping with fatigue).

Pituitary function  In some patients the pituitary gland may receive a dose of radiotherapy, this may affect the gland and its hormone production. If it occurs, this happens a year or more after radiotherapy, and is easily managed. If this side effect applies to you, the team will explain it fully.

The doctor or radiographer giving the treatment will be happy to answer any questions you may have about the treatment and can be contacted during working hours at the telephone number given on your appointment card.

Appointment, Appointments Date, Frame Making, CT Scan, Frame Fitting

You will be given a separate appointment card for radiotherapy treatment dates and times.

Further general information Your doctors and specialist nurses are in an ideal position to give you relevant information on your disease and treatment as they know your individual circumstances. Cancerbackup has a help line (0808 800 1234) and a prize winning video available in English, Italian, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati & Hindi explaining Radiotherapy & Chemotherapy. Cancernet.co.uk has over 500 pages describing cancer, its management, practical tips and tool which patients, their carers and their doctors have found helpful during the cancer journey.

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