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a patient receiving therapy

SBRT, or stereotactic body radiation therapy, is a technique in which a carefully programmed system of coordinates is used to deliver narrowly focused, high-dose radiation beams to a solid tumor. As with other types of radiation therapy, the goal of stereotactic body radiation therapy is to prevent tumor growth and ultimately shrink a tumor by damaging the DNA of the cancerous cells.

How SBRT differs from conventional therapy

The difference of SBRT is based on the highly advanced principles of stereotactic radiosurgery, which was developed to treat brain tumors without damaging the nearby gray matter. SBRT—a version of stereotactic radiosurgery that is designed for use outside of the central nervous system—allows for maximum radiation dosage delivery to a refined target area of the body, and is often accurate to within 1 to 2 millimeters. As a result, a patient’s treatment can usually be completed in fewer sessions as compared to traditional radiation therapy. Additionally, SBRT allows a physician to minimize exposure to surrounding healthy tissue and organs.

SBRT incorporates several innovative technologies, including:

  • Three-dimensional imaging and localization techniques for determining the exact size, shape and coordinates of a targeted tumor
  • Special systems for properly positioning a patient on the treatment table and helping the patient to maintain the correct body position during radiation therapy
  • High-energy X-ray beams delivered with pinpoint accuracy
  • Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT), which allows for enhanced precision by confirming the location of a targeted tumor through a series of images taken prior to and during radiation treatment

Who is a candidate for SBRT radiation?

SBRT may be recommended as an alternative to invasive surgical treatment for a patient who is unable to undergo surgery. Also, stereotactic body radiation therapy may be used to address tumors that are difficult to reach, situated in close proximity to vital organs or located in areas that are prone to body movement, such as the chest and abdomen. Some of the malignancies regularly treated using SBRT include:

What are the benefits of SBRT treatment?

One of the most significant benefits offered by SBRT is that it limits the amount of radiation delivered to the organs and other bodily tissues surrounding the tumor. This, in turn, can reduce the number and severity of any resulting side effects.

Another benefit of SBRT radiation is that it requires fewer treatment sessions than conventional radiation therapy. For example, traditional radiation therapy could require daily sessions over the course of several weeks. But because SBRT allows for the use of larger doses of radiation, treatment can often be completed in just one to five sessions over the course of one to two weeks.

Potential SBRT side effects

As was noted above, when compared to conventional radiation therapy, SBRT often produces fewer and milder side effects. With that being said, it’s still possible for patients to experience certain side effects from this form of treatment. When that happens, physicians are often able to recommend treatments to counteract any resulting side effects (for example, nausea could potentially be minimized by taking medication or making certain dietary changes).

SBRT side effects will depend on the type of cancer being treated. For instance, an individual with lung cancer may develop a mild, productive cough. Someone with liver or pancreatic cancer might experience nausea and/or diarrhea. And patients being treated for prostate cancer may feel an urgent need to urinate soon after SBRT treatment sessions.

Why choose Moffitt for SBRT treatment?

While SBRT is a sophisticated form of radiation treatment that is helping many patients, the true advantage is typically found not within the equipment itself, but rather in the treatment team behind it. For instance, consider the Moffitt Cancer Center difference. Our multispecialty team of cancer experts is working tirelessly to improve patient outcomes and quality of life by exploring new and better treatments for all forms of cancer, and our research efforts are nationally recognized.

Working closely together in a single location, our physicians are able to collaborate with their colleagues. This makes it easy for our radiation therapists to obtain expert radiology reviews of their patients’ imaging studies, and to discuss symptom control options with our supportive care providers. Moffitt’s collaborative approach fosters innovation as our team continues to push the envelope with a goal of one day finding a cure.

To learn more about SBRT and other advanced treatment options for body tumors, call 1-888-663-3488 or request an appointment by completing a new patient registration form online. We see patients with and without referrals. Our patients’ diagnoses and treatment are our top priority, so we’ll be sure to quickly connect you to a cancer expert.


National Cancer Institute: SBRT