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Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy

What is stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) for liver cancer?

Approximately 80 liver tumor patients are treated annually at the University of Michigan using stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT), a treatment with the ability to focus a high dose of radiation, delivered with high precision, to a tumor while sparing the healthy tissues nearby. Sometimes called 'radiosurgery' or 'CyberKnife' (a brand of equipment), it is a non-invasive therapy, rather than a type of surgery. Michigan Medicine is the premier location in North America for delivering radiation treatments for liver cancer.

Multidisciplinary Liver Tumor Care

When liver tumor patients at the University of Michigan receive this therapy, it means that doctors and nurses are providing cancer care according to a personalized treatment plan developed by specialists in the U-M Rogel Cancer Center's multidisciplinary tumor program. Members are experts in hepatology, surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology, and diagnostic and interventional radiology. Their frequent meetings allow patients to have the expertise of a multidisciplinary team of physicians with a focus on liver cancer - without having to schedule individual appointments.

The Liver Tumor Board can recommend SBRT for many different types of patients and situations. It can be used both for patients with tumors which started in the liver and those which started elsewhere and spread to the liver. It can be used for patients with various sizes, shapes, locations, and stages of tumors. In our experience, for approximately 90% of patients treated with SBRT, these tumors are controlled.

SBRT is one of many treatments available at the University of Michigan. Thus, the Liver Tumor Board is key in considering the whole patient, rather than just the patient's tumor, and recommending the appropriate therapy for the appropriate patient.

What to expect

If the Liver Tumor Board recommends consideration of SBRT, a patient will meet with a radiation oncologist who is an expert in liver treatments, and who participated in the Tumor Board discussion. The physician will make sure the patient is a good candidate for treatment, and procedures will be explained in detail. About a week before the first treatment, patients will have a special planning CT scan, called a CT simulation, so that radiation treatments can be planned on the most up-to-date tumor images. Then, the radiation oncologist will work closely with a team of physicians and dosimetrists to develop an individualized treatment plan.

SBRT treatments are done on an outpatient basis and involve 60-minute sessions twice a week for a total of three to five painless treatments. Patients usually feel well, both during and after treatment, though some report mild fatigue or nausea, which can easily be controlled with medication. Typically patients drive themselves to and from treatments without difficulty.

Patients are seen once a week by their radiation oncologist while getting treatment, to monitor side effects, if any. After treatment, the Liver Tumor Board continues to carefully monitor patients so that if a new or growing tumor is found, it can also be managed.

Make an appointment/referral, or have your questions answered

The Cancer AnswerLine™ is staffed by oncology nurses and is just a phone call away to answer your questions or to assist you in making an appointment.

Please call 800-865-1125 to make an appointment or for the answers to any questions you have.

NOTE: Children and young adults receive treatment in the Solid Tumor Oncology Program, part of C.S. Mott Children's Hospital.

If you would like to refer a patient, please contact our M-Line service: 800-962-3555. For more information, visit our Make an Appointment web page.

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