Frequently Asked Questions about CyberKnife | Sentara Healthcare
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How do I learn more about CyberKnife®  robotic radiosurgery?

To learn more or to schedule an evaluation for radiosurgery treatment, please contact the Program Coordinator at (757) 388-2061.

What is CyberKnife® robotic radiosurgery?

The CyberKnife robotic radiosurgery system is the first and only robotic radiosurgery system designed to treat tumors anywhere in the body, including the brain, spine, lung, liver, pancreas and prostate. It delivers high doses of radiation with pin-point, sub-millimeter accuracy. Because the CyberKnife system can deliver radiation beams from virtually any direction, the radiation beams are focused precisely on the tumor minimizing damage to the surrounding healthy tissue and nearby critical structures like the spinal cord or optic nerve.  

What is the difference between conventional radiation therapy and radiosurgery?

Conventional radiation therapy (radiotherapy) administers a broad beam of radiation from one to two directions in 30 to 45 treatments. It delivers low-dose beams of radiation over a period of 6 to 8 weeks – the time required to allow healthy tissue damaged during treatment to recover.

CyberKnife radiosurgery delivers high-dose beams of radiation – which can be more effective in killing tumors anywhere in the body. This system can deliver radiation beams from virtually unlimited directions with sub-millimeter accuracy. With radiosurgery, damage to surrounding healthy tissue is minimized; therefore the treatment can be completed typically in one to five days. 

How is the CyberKnife treatment tolerated by most patients?

In most patients there are minimal to no side effects associated with the CyberKnife treatments. Your doctor can advise you of possible adverse effects based on your type of cancer and your specific treatment plan.

How many patients have been treated with the CyberKnife system?

As of December 2010, more than 100,000 patients have been treated worldwide by the CyberKnife System. 

How does the CyberKnife system differ from other radiosurgery systems?

Accuray has given cancer patients another treatment option with the development of the world’s first and only dedicated radiosurgery device: The CyberKnife robotic radiosurgery system. With the CyberKnife system, radiosurgery is no longer limited to treating tumors in the head and neck.

Accurate – The CyberKnife system enables clinicians to confidently treat tumors with minimal harm to surrounding healthy tissue by delivering high doses of radiation with sub-millimeter accuracy (within the width of a hair).

Flexible – The CyberKnife system offers maneuverability and versatility that is unsurpassed by traditional radiation systems. By delivering radiation beams from virtually unlimited positions, the CyberKnife System can treat tumors anywhere in the body from any angle including the brain, spine, lung, liver, pancreas and prostate.

Robotic – The CyberKnife system continually tracks tumor position, detects any tumor or patient movement and automatically corrects the treatment delivery – without the need to manually reposition the patient or interrupt the treatment, thereby slowing down the treatment process.

Beneficial – The CyberKnife System provides a pain-free, non-invasive alternative for patients, including those diagnosed with previously inoperable or surgically complex tumors, or for patients who are looking for an alternative to surgery.

Non-invasive – The CyberKnife system does not require invasive head or body frames. 

What are the benefits of treatment with the CyberKnife system?

  • Pain free procedure – The CyberKnife treatment is a pain free non-invasive alternative to surgery. The treatment does not require anesthesia, effectively eliminating the risk of complications associated with traditional surgery.

  • Minimal recovery time – Compared to traditional surgery, which may require an overnight hospital stay, CyberKnife treatments are performed on an outpatient basis with little or no recovery time allowing patients to return to normal activities almost immediately.

  • Superior comfort – Patients experience improved comfort due to the system’s frameless design, which eliminates the pain and inconvenience associated with invasive head and body frames typically associated with other radiosurgery systems.
  • Minimal side effects – There are minimal to no side effects associated with CyberKnife treatments. Because the CyberKnife system is non-invasive, patients face minimal risk and few post-treatment complications.

  • A new treatment option – The CyberKnife system gives new hope to patients who refuse surgery or have been diagnosed with surgically inoperable or complex tumors.

Has the CyberKnife system been approved by the FDA?

Yes, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared the CyberKnife system for the treatment of tumors in the head, neck and upper spine in 1999 and for the treatment tumors anywhere in the body where radiation is indicated in 2001. 

What are the steps in the CyberKnife treatment process?

Scanning – Prior to treatment with the CyberKnife system, the patient undergoes imaging procedures to determine the size, shape and location of the tumor. The process begins with a standard high-resolution CT scan, and for certain tumors other imaging techniques, such as MRI, angiography or PET, may also be used.

Planning – Following the scanning, the image data is then digitally transferred to the CyberKnife system’s treatment planning workstation, where the treating physician identifies the exact size, shape and location of the tumor. A qualified clinician then uses the CyberKnife software to generate a treatment plan to provide the desired radiation dose to the identified tumor location while avoiding damage to the surrounding healthy tissue. The patient does not need to be present during this step in the process.

Treatment – During a CyberKnife procedure, a patient lies comfortably on the treatment table, which automatically positions the patient. Anesthesia is not required, as the procedure is painless and non-invasive. The treatment generally lasts between 30 and 90 minutes and is typically completed in one to five visits.

Follow-up:  Follow-up imaging, generally performed with a combination of CT, MRI and/or PET scanning, is usually performed in the months following treatment to assess the tumor’s response to the delivered radiation.

Are CyberKnife treatments covered by insurance?

While Sentara cannot guarantee reimbursement from any third-party payer, data collected from U.S. based CyberKnife Centers indicate that more than 100 unique commercial and private payers are reimbursing the related codes and any or all portions of the CyberKnife services.  Patients should always consult with a physician in connection with any and all treatments options and obtain prior authorization from their insurance companies once a treatment options is determined.


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