Radiation therapy: SIRT and SBRT
Also known as radiotherapy, radiation therapy uses targeted radiation to treat cancer. It can be delivered internally or externally. Specialised forms of radiation therapy may be used to treat secondary liver cancer. These are called selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT) and stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT).
Learn more about:
- Selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT)
- Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT)
- Video: What is radiation therapy?
This is the most common type of radiation therapy used for secondary liver cancer. Also called radioembolisation, SIRT may be offered when there are many small tumours in the liver that can’t be removed with surgery. It is usually needed only once.
SIRT precisely targets cancers in the liver with high doses of internal radiation. Tiny radioactive beads (made of glass or resin) are delivered through the blood vessels to the cancer. The radiation from these beads damages the cancer cells and their blood supply, while causing little damage to normal cells.
How SIRT is done
Selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT) combines embolisation (which blocks blood supply to the tumour) with internal radiation therapy.
You may have flu-like symptoms, nausea and pain, which can be managed with medicines. Over the next week or so, you may need to take some safety precautions, such as not sharing a bed and avoiding close physical contact with children or pregnant women.
An increasing number of cancer centres now offer SBRT, which is also called stereotactic ablative body radiation therapy (SABR). SBRT is a type of external beam radiation therapy. It may be offered to some people with small secondary tumours in the liver.
You will be asked to lie very still on a treatment table. A machine will precisely target beams of radiation from many different angles onto the tumour. The highly targeted radiation means surrounding healthy tissue is protected. SBRT requires fewer treatment sessions than conventional external beam radiation therapy. People may need only 3-8 sessions over one or two weeks.
How SBRT is done
Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) precisely targets beams of high-dose radiation from different angles onto the tumour.
These may include fatigue, nausea, and soreness in the treatment area.
For more on this, see Liver cancer.
Video: What is radiation therapy?
If you have cancer, radiation therapy may play a big role in your treatment plan. Learn more in this short video.
Podcast: Making Treatment Decisions
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Prof Desmond Yip, Clinical Director, Department of Medical Oncology, The Canberra Hospital, ACT; A/Prof Siddhartha Baxi, Radiation Oncologist and Medical Director, GenesisCare, Gold Coast, QLD; Prof Katherine Clark, Clinical Director of Palliative Care, NSLHD Supportive and Palliative Care Network, Northern Sydney Cancer Centre, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; Anne Dowling, Hepatoma Clinical Nurse Consultant and Liver Transplant Coordinator, Austin Health, VIC; A/Prof Koroush Haghighi, Liver, Pancreas and Upper Gastrointestinal Surgeon, Prince of Wales and St Vincent’s Hospitals, NSW; Karen Hall, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Dr Brett Knowles, Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary and General Surgeon, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and St Vincent’s Hospital, VIC; Lina Sharma, Consumer; A/Prof Simone Strasser, Hepatologist, AW Morrow Gastroenterology and Liver Centre, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and The University of Sydney, NSW; David Thomas, Consumer.
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