Stereotactic Radiosurgery | Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center | Loyola Medicine

Stereotactic Radiosurgery

Non-invasive X-ray Therapy for Cancer Treatment

Stereotactic radiosurgery is a cancer treatment at Loyola Medicine that uses focused radiation beams delivered from outside your body to treat brain tumors and benign conditions, including arteriovenous malformations (AVM) and functional disorders.  

Originally developed to treat brain cancer through a single session, radiosurgery has advanced to treat other cancers through multiple sessions known as stereotactic radiotherapy.  

Since 2003, Loyola has been a leader in the Midwest in using the Novalis® radiosurgery system, which combines radiation delivery with sophisticated imaging technology to give you the best possible results. Stereotactic radiosurgery is a non-invasive and highly precise procedure that is often described as a “knifeless” treatment.

With radiosurgery, your radiation oncologist uses a beam of X-rays that is customized to the size and contours of your tumor to kill cancer cells. The Novalis® system uses image guidance to see your tumor very sharply when setting up the treatment, as well as motion management technology throughout the procedure to make sure your body’s position is accurate to under a millimeter. This makes sure that we are directing the radiation at your tumor and avoiding healthy tissue.

What to Expect with Stereotactic Radiosurgery

Before being treated for a brain tumor with stereotactic radiosurgery, you may first have several imaging tests, including an MRI, contrast CT or an angiogram. Your radiation therapy team, including your radiation oncologist, neurosurgeon and physicist, will then use the results of these tests to create a unique treatment plan to best treat your tumor.  

When it’s time for treatment, your team will customize a radiation treatment plan that includes the right beam shapes and angles for your tumor, in order to provide the most effective treatment and preserve as much healthy tissue as possible.

Radiosurgery is typically delivered in a single session, called unfractionated stereotactic radiosurgery. In certain cases, your radiation oncologist may decide that multiple, smaller doses of radiosurgery are better for your treatment.

This is called fractionated stereotactic radiosurgery, and can sometimes be more effective because normal brain tissue can tolerate smaller doses of radiation better than one large dose.

Stereotactic Radiosurgery Side Effects

Your Loyola doctor will discuss the potential side effects of stereotactic radiosurgery, which can include:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache

Driving is not recommended after treatment, as these symptoms may occur shortly after treatment. Unlike regular surgery, radiosurgery does not require anesthesia, typically has no scarring and comes with little risk of infection.