Treatment for Pancreatic Tumors

The CyberKnife System at Baptist Cancer Center is used to treat pancreatic cancer in patients who are poor surgical candidates, those who do not want surgery and in cases where surgery or other treatments have failed.

Treating pancreatic tumors can be tricky because the tumor naturally moves as you breathe. With traditional radiation treatments, this movement results in damage to surrounding healthy tissue, while the tumor itself does not receive the optimal amount of radiation to destroy it. As a result, traditional radiation requires 25 to 40 sessions of low-dose radiation. With CyberKnife's accuracy, treatments use higher doses of radiation delivered in one to five sessions.

Who is involved with CyberKnife treatment at Baptist Cancer Center? CyberKnife treatments at the Baptist Cancer Center involve a team approach. Your team may include:

What planning occurs prior to CyberKnife treatment at Baptist Cancer Center?

To pinpoint the tumor's location, you will undergo a short outpatient procedure before your treatment. Your doctor will insert three to five small seeds, about the size of a grain of rice, into the tumor. The seeds are called fiducial markers, and they are placed in the body through a needle guided by a CT. Fiducial markers serve as reference points to accurately locate the tumor. After the fiducials are implanted, you must wait one week to begin treatments to allow fiducial movement to stabilize.

A custom-fit body cradle will be made for you to wear during treatment. Made of a soft material that molds to your body, the cradle ensures that you remain in the same position for each treatment session and will be comfortable during the procedure. You will also be fitted for a special vest, which is worn during CyberKnife treatment and enables the robot to track chest motion and breathing patterns, ensuring safe and accurate radiation delivery.

While lying in the cradle and wearing your vest, you will undergo a CT scan and possibly an MRI scan. This data will be used by the Baptist Cancer Center team to determine the exact size, shape and location of the tumor and nearby anatomy. Once the imaging is complete, the body cradle and vest will be stored for use during your CyberKnife treatment.

What does a CyberKnife treatment at the Baptist Cancer Center involve?

After a treatment plan is developed, you will return to Baptist Cancer Center for treatment. Pancreatic cancer treatment is usually delivered in four to five sessions, which are typically completed within one week.

For most patients, the CyberKnife treatment is a painless experience. You may dress comfortably in your own clothes, and we encourage you to bring music to listen to during the treatment.

When it is time for treatment, you will be asked to put on your vest and lie in your custom body cradle. The radiation therapist will ensure the vest is properly adjusted and that you are positioned correctly on the treatment couch.

The location of the tumor will be continually tracked as you relax and breathe normally. The CyberKnife's special software determines the precise location for radiation delivery, using digital images of the fiducials and information from the vest. The computer-controlled robot will move around your body, stopping at each determined location to deliver radiation. The medical team will be watching every step of the way as the CyberKnife detects your tumor movement, allowing for safe and precise radiation delivery.

Once treatment is complete, most patients quickly return to their daily routines with little interruption to their normal activities. If treatment is being delivered in stages, you will return for additional treatments over the next several days as determined by your doctors. Side effects are generally minimal and temporary.

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