For the more than 23,000 Americans facing a malignant brain or spinal cord tumor diagnosis this year, choosing from multiple treatment options can be confusing and overwhelming. Illinois CyberKnife now offers a nonsurgical option called stereotactic radiosurgery to treat spine tumors.
Though tumors that originate in the spine are rare, spinal tumors metastasized from cancerous tumors in other parts of the body, such as the lung, breast, skin and colon, are much more common. Whether cancerous or noncancerous, spinal tumors can affect nearby nerves, causing pain, neurological problems and sometimes paralysis. In cases where a patient's cancer has spread to the spine, the primary goal in treatment is pain relief and preventing neurological deterioration.
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Spinal metastases are typically treated using medication, surgery, conventional radiation therapy or stereotactic radiosurgery. Medication can manage pain and swelling from the tumor, but depending on the tumor's location and size and the medical condition of the patient, further treatment may be required.
"For patients diagnosed with spinal metastases, it is particularly important to offer an option that won't interfere with the treatment for their primary cancer," Dr. Arica Hirsch, medical director of Illinois CyberKnife said. "CyberKnife stereotactic radiosurgery addresses this concern by treating the tumor without incision and protecting nearby healthy spinal cord tissue, an aspect that has made this a key form of treatment for patients with spine tumors."
Spine tumors present a treatment challenge because they move as a patient breathes. Conventional radiation therapy cannot account for this movement, so surrounding healthy tissue may be damaged by the radiation delivered during treatment. CyberKnife avoids damaging nearby healthy spinal cord tissue and structures by targeting a tumor with sub-millimeter accuracy. This precision is achieved by combining 3D images of the tumor with live images during treatment, which allows for automatic, real-time adjustments of the CyberKnife's radiation beams when the patient breathes.
"Clinical data has shown stereotactic radiosurgery to be effective at eliminating and controlling tumors of the spine while also avoiding damage to the spinal cord," Dr. Hirsch says.
CyberKnife treats tumors in one to five procedures lasting about 90 minutes each. Because the treatment is noninvasive, patients usually return to normal activities immediately with few to no side effects. Patients experiencing localized, solid mass spinal tumors, those diagnosed with medically inoperable tumors or with high risk of reoccurrence can be considered potential candidates for CyberKnife.
Illinois CyberKnife is a department of Advocate Lutheran General Hospital and is located at 1700 Luther Lane, Suite 1110, Park Ridge, Ill. 60068. For more information, call (847) 723-0100.