Stereotactic radiotherapy for lung cancer

Older woman talking to her doctor

What is stereotactic radiotherapy for lung cancer?

Stereotactic radiotherapy is a very precise, high dose radiotherapy treatment. It is usually used to treat cancer at an early stage. It is not available in all hospitals because specialist equipment and skills are needed. The radiation is aimed at your tumour from many different points. This means that less of your healthy tissue is exposed to radiation, so there may be fewer side-effects than with the usual type of radiotherapy.

Planning your treatment

CT scan

Planning for stereotactic radiotherapy usually takes 1-2 hours. The specialist uses a CT scanner to work out how to shape the radiotherapy beam so it fits your tumour exactly. As you breathe in and out the tumour will move too. This is called tumour motion. A special device or box placed just below your breast bone during the CT can track the rise and fall of your chest and the tumour motion as you breathe. This is called 4-dimensional CT scanning. 

Body mould (vac pac)

The radiation technician will make a mould for you to lie in during your treatment to make sure you stay still and in the same position during treatment. The mould is like a plastic mattress shaped to your body. The air is then sucked out of the vacuum pac so that it moulds around your body. Each time you receive your treatment, you will be put into this mould.

Having your treatment

You will normally have 3-8 fractions (treatments), depending on where the tumour is. This means you will have to go to the hospital a number of times. Each session will last about an hour. The treatment itself does not take very long. But it will take a little while to get you into the right position in your mould. 

When you are in the right position, your upper chest will be covered with a thin sheet. The box that traces your breathing will be put on your breast bone. The box helps the radiation beam to target the tumour accurately by following the movement of your chest as you breathe – you do not need to keep still by holding your breath.

For more information

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