Center for Thoracic Oncology
The Center for Thoracic Oncology at Boston Medical Center is, first and foremost, here to serve you and your family. We are a team of dedicated specialists whose common goal is to treat your cancer and lead you on the path to recovery in as comfortable a way as possible. You will be treated in state-of-the-art facilities using a multidisciplinary approach. Our staff of compassionate diagnosticians, surgeons, physician assistant, nurse practitioners, and surgical nurses work together to provide you with the most advanced and effective medical treatment in New England—as well as unmatched patient care.
One of the advanced tools we use at Boston Medical Center is the CyberKnife Robotic Radiosurgery System, which is a new, noninvasive alternative to open surgery for the treatment of benign and cancerous tumors. We are one of only two institutions in the Boston area that offers this therapeutic option to our thoracic oncology patients.
CyberKnife delivers highly targeted beams of radiation directly into tumors, in a pain-free, non-surgical way. The accuracy and precision of this tool gives new hope to patients who might not have had treatment options before. Guided by specialized imaging software, we can track and continually adjust treatment at any point in the body, and without the need for the head frames and other equipment that are needed for some other forms of radiosurgery.
CyberKnife consists of:
- A lightweight "linear accelerator," which produces high-energy radiation
- A robot, which points the linear accelerator at the correct angle
- Several x-ray cameras, which, along with computer software, track the position of the patient and tumor
Lung cancer can be especially hard to treat, as the tumors move with each breath. CyberKnife, however, allows for precise treatment as you breathe.
During treatment, you lie on a comfortable table outfitted with a custom-fitted body cradle and vest, and the robotic arm will guide the linear accelerator to the correct positions over your body so that the highly targeted treatment is delivered selectively to cancer cells. Next to you will also be some computer machines and consoles. You can relax and breathe normally during treatment, and you will not feel much of anything at all.
How to Prepare
Sometimes having markers in the body helps surgeons work more precisely. If your doctor determines that they must be placed into the tumor or surrounding tissue to guide treatment, you will come in for a short outpatient procedure approximately one week prior to your scheduled CyberKnife treatment. We will insert these markers, which are often tiny gold chips, through a small needle in your chest. You will also be fitted for the body cradle, which will mold to your body, keep you still, and make treatment more comfortable, and the body vest, which will help the robot determine how chest movement and breathing correlate with tumor position.
We recommend wearing comfortable clothing, and you may like to arrange for a companion to wait with you at the hospital, and for a ride home after treatment is complete.
What to Expect
Prior to your first treatment, your physician will order a computed tomography (CT) scan for your chest area, to determine the size, shape, and location of the tumor. These images will be downloaded into the CyberKnife System's software and the clinician will map a treatment plan.
You will then lie down on the treatment table, outfitted with your cradle and vest. The computer-controlled robot from which radiation will be delivered to the tumor will slowly move around you to the various locations. Each session generally takes between 30 and 90 minutes and is completely painless for most people. Clinical research thus far shows that most lung cancer patients respond very well to treatment.
Cyberknife is usually performed on an outpatient basis, over a period of one to five days. Most patients experience little to no side effects, and you should be able to resume your normal activities immediately. Call us if you notice anything of concern or if you have questions. Be sure to schedule and attend any follow up appointments that your physician advises.