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What Is Radiation Surgery?

A linear accelerator can be considered the least accurate machine for radiation therapy.
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  • Written By: Ken Black
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 24 September 2014
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Radiation surgery, also known as radiosurgery, is a new type of treatment mainly used for the destruction of malignant tumors that occur in various parts of the body. It is considered more effective than just radiation alone because it is more precise, causing very little damage to the surrounding tissue. This precision allows higher doses of radiation to be concentrated at the site of concern, and possibly neutralize or destroy the tumor without any further procedures. In the past, doctors used radiation mainly as a way to reduce the size of the tumor so that it could be physically removed.

One of the keys to radiation surgery is the precision that can only come with more sophisticated machines. These machines use radiation to disrupt the DNA in the cancer cells. This not only interferes with these cells' ability to reproduce, it also stops them from being able to retain fluids. Eventually, the cells die or at least fail to reproduce at a significant pace. This effectively stops the cancer, which is nothing more than the uninterrupted growth of mutant cells, and is something all forms of radiation do.

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The difference with radiation surgery is that that it is done with more lethal results because the precision is so much greater. One of the side effects to radiation has always been the destruction of healthy cells in the vicinity. Sometimes, this is not a problem because those cells can regrow. In cases involving brain tumors or those close to the heart, however, the destruction of cells and tissues can have terrible consequences that could prove to be just as lethal as the cancer itself.

The surgery is more precise because it uses three different points to target the area of concern. This is why radiation surgery is sometimes referred to as stereotactic radiosurgery. By focusing radiation from multiple directions, the tumor can be targeted on all sides.

There are three popular pieces of equipment that can be used to perform a radiation surgery procedure: particle beams, Cobalt-60 based, and linear accelerators. The most expensive of these is the particle beam, which can cost more than $100 million US Dollars, but is considered to be extremely accurate. The Cobalt-60 based unit is only for the treatment of brain tumors. A linear accelerator is often considered to be the least accurate, but is considered useful against especially large tumors. In all cases, the treatment is minimally invasive to the patient.

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