SBRT - Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy
This handout explains the steps you will take to begin treatment and what happens during treatment. While you are reading this you can mark the things you do not understand and make a list of your questions. Bring this handout and your questions with you when you come for your next visit or treatment. Your doctor, nurse, or radiation therapist will go over them with you.
What is SBRT?
SBRT (Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy) is a way of giving radiation to a tumor in the lung, liver, or other area that may not respond well to surgery, chemotherapy, conventional radiation, or other treatments. SBRT may be used because:
- of a tumor’s location.
- of a high risk of side effects with other treatments.
- the patient cannot handle certain other treatments.
- the tumor keeps on growing in spite of the other treatment.
SBRT allows the doctor to treat the tumor and spare as much “normal” tissue as possible. SBRT uses a very specific body mold to put you in the exact position for each treatment. This mold is also called a “Body-Fix” mold.
How is SBRT different from standard radiation?
- Treats the tumor along with some of the surrounding normal, healthy tissue.
- Uses many small “fractions” of treatment given 5 days a week over several weeks.
- Targets the tumor and limits radiation to normal tissue.
- Uses few “fractions”.
Both types of radiation may use a mold. The SBRT system uses a mold that holds you more securely than other methods. It also limits how high your chest can rise with each breath. A vacuum pump is used to shape the mold to your body. Even in the mold, you need to stay as still as you can.
What steps are needed before I start treatment?
Before treatment can begin, you will need a Body Fix mold made to fit you and a CT Scan. Your doctor may also order a PET scan for you. We will try to schedule all of these appointments on the same day if possible.
These are the steps you will follow.
1. Set-up (arrive 30 minutes before the body mold/CT)
When you arrive you will be asked to change into a hospital gown removing everything from the waist up. Please do not wear any necklaces or earrings. Next, the nurse will start an IV line if you need it for the CT scan.
2. The body mold and half mold
The body molding process takes about 20 – 30 minutes. You will be asked to lie back on the table into a blue body mold. We will help you get into the proper position. The mold feels much like a beanbag chair when you first lie down. You will need to raise your arms above your head. If you have any concerns about being able to do this, please let your doctor know.
Next we will place small “pillows” across your chest or upper abdomen and feet. Then a thin clear plastic wrap like Saran® Wrap will be placed across your body from your chest to your toes. If you are allergic to plastic, please let your doctor know.
A vacuum is applied to the mold to create an impression of your body. When the vacuum starts you will hear a loud humming noise in the background and the mold will start to form around you. The plastic will be somewhat tight across your chest and abdomen. If you are claustrophobic or afraid of being in confined spaces, please tell us. While the mold is being made, or at any time, if you are having trouble breathing, let your radiation therapist know. Once the mold is finished, we will help you get out of the mold. This can be a little difficult, much like trying to climb out of a box or a waterbed. This mold will be used for your treatments.
3. The CT (CAT) scan
After the body mold is made, a CT scan will be done. A CT scan is a computerized x-ray exam that uses radiation to take pictures. If you have never had a CT scan before, please let your nurse know so you can be given a handout that explains it in greater detail. You may be given IV contrast. If IV contrast is needed for your CT scan, an IV will be placed in one of your veins. The contrast will give us a better picture of your tumor. Some people feel a warm flush or have a metallic or strange taste in their mouths during the contrast delivery. This is normal and will go away after the contrast is finished.
Before the contrast is given, a blood test called a creatinine level will be done to make sure that your kidneys are working well. Your local doctor can do this test or it can be done here. Women between the ages of 12 and 55 will also have a pregnancy test before the CT scan.
If you are allergic to CT contrast, shellfish, or iodine products, please tell your doctor or nurse.
If you have diabetes and take metformin (Glucophage® or Glucovance®) or insulin, please tell your nurse or doctor.
You should have nothing to eat or drink for four (4) hours before the CT scan.
Once the CT scan is done, the therapists will place 3 black marks or “tattoos” on your chest area. This is done with a black dye and a small pinprick. These will be used each day for the treatment to help get you into the right position.
4. The PET scan
A PET scan shows how cells and organs in your body are working. A PET scan can measure how much energy a cell is using. Scar tissue and tumors that have responded to treatment do not use much energy. Cells and tumors that are growing or active use a lot of energy. A PET scan can help tell the difference between these types of cells.
A PET scanner is a special camera that can take pictures of the inside of your body by sensing a tracer. For most studies this tracer is a radioactive glucose (sugar) called FDG. Before your PET scan you will be given an injection of a small amount of FDG.
The PET scan therapists will send you an information packet to explain the test. This packet should arrive about a week before your PET scan. If you don’t receive it please contact them at 608-265-8731.
What happens next?
Treatment planning takes 10– 14 days. The length of time depends on how complex your case is and how soon we can get you into our schedule.
The first treatment takes about 60 – 90 minutes because of the length of time needed for set up. The rest of the treatments take about 60 minutes. Due to the complex nature of these treatments and the staff needed, the treatments are done at certain times. The radiation therapists will call you when planning process is done and set up appointments with you. You will likely receive five treatments within two weeks, with at least one day off between treatments. Your radiation oncologist will specify the scheduling that is preferred. One sample schedule would be:
- Week #1: Treatments on Tuesday and Thursday
- Week #2: Treatments on Monday, Wednesday and Friday
What happens while I am going through treatments?
The radiation therapist will get you ready for your treatment by setting you up in the same position you were in for the CT scan using your Body Fix mold. Each day a special X-ray or scan will be taken using the treatment machine. The radiation therapist and radiation oncologist will check over the scan and your position and make any needed adjustments before going ahead with your treatment.
During the course of your treatments, you will see your doctor or nurse at least once a week to watch for side effects. If you have questions at any time, please let the therapist know and he or she will arrange for you to meet with your doctor. On one of the last days of treatment you will meet with your doctor to discuss follow-up care. Most often, the doctor will see you in one month to check on how you are feeling and for any side effects you may have. Then, the doctor will see you again in about 2 – 3 months. Some of these visits may involve more CT scans.
What are the side effects related to treatment?
Most of the time there are few side effects. The most common side effects are listed below.
- Feelings of claustrophobia – the plastic wrap and the mold fit closely to your body. Some people may have a feeling of being too confined. If you know you are afraid of being in tight spaces, or have these feelings while the mold is being made, please let us know. There are medicines we can give you.
- Allergic reactions – There are a small number of people who may be allergic to the plastic used in the molding process. If you have one of these allergies, please tell your doctor. If you notice a rash or have trouble breathing while in the mold please tell us right away.
- Skin irritation – Red, dry skin, like sunburn, may occur on your chest or back. The amount of skin irritation is most often minor. Everyone’s skin reacts differently. While you are having treatments we will check your skin, give you a cream, and talk with you about ways to protect your skin.
- Hair loss – Hair loss, if it occurs at all, is most often minor. It may occur as small patchy areas on the chest.
- Fatigue – You may notice some fatigue. Many patients find they are able to carry out their normal routines with very little problem. Some find that they begin to feel more tired near the end of treatments and may need to rest. Taking rest breaks is very important. You will need to listen to your body and rest as needed.
- Nutritional needs – Nutrition affects how you feel during treatment and how quickly you recover after treatment. Good eating and drinking habits will help lessen the side effects you have. You should aim for three servings of protein per day and drink 8 – 12 glasses per day. Avoid alcohol and smoking. Your goal should be to maintain your weight.
- Sore throat and trouble swallowing –Some people will begin to have a sore throat near the end of treatment. As the throat becomes sorer, please let your doctor know about swallowing problems. Medicines can be ordered to help ease the pain.
- There may be other side effects not listed here, which are due to the site of your tumor. Your doctor will discuss these with you.
- Late or delayed side effects – These maysometimes occur. Your doctor will discuss this with you.
What should I do if I have questions or problems?
While you are having treatments you will see your doctor or nurse weekly. If you have any questions at any time during your treatments, please let the radiation therapist working with you know and they will arrange for you to meet with your doctor.
If you have any questions or problems, please call the Radiotherapy Clinic at 608-263-8500. If the clinic is closed, your call will transfer to the hospital paging operator. Ask for the radiation oncology doctor on call. Leave your name and phone number with the area code. The doctor will call you back.
If you live out of the area, please call 1-800-323-8942. Ask for the Radiation Oncology Clinic.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 10/28/2011
Copyright © 10/28/2011 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6015
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