What is Lung Stereotactic Ablative Radiosurgery?
Lung Stereotactic Ablative Radiosurgery (SABR) is a non-invasive, highly targeted form of radiation treatment that is recommended in international cancer guidelines as an alternative to surgery in early stage lung cancers for selected patient groups. SABR has been proven in studies to confer excellent survival rates comparable to surgery and is an increasingly important option in early stage lung cancer treatment.
* The NCCN guidelines on NSCLC is written by 30 leading cancer centres in the U.S and is regarded as the gold standard internationally
Lung SABR is also commonly used in stage 4 cancers to target tumors that have spread to the lung, and to prevent or relief symptoms. Often, it is combined with immunotherapy to achieve a synergistic effect. Unlike surgery or other invasive procedures, SABR does not cause disruption to the continued use of chemotherapy or targeted therapy in these patients.
SABR works by using technologically advanced machines to deliver extremely focused beams carrying high doses of radiation directly to the tumour to destroy it. With SABR, an entire treatment course can be completed in three to five outpatient sessions over two weeks, with no surgical or anaesthetic risk.
Modern Linear Accelerator with 6 degrees of freedom robotic couch
Lung SABR destroys lung cancer with painless and precise radiation beams
What are the risks of surgery?
Surgery for lung cancer is a major operation and can have serious side effects, which is why it isn’t a good idea for everyone.
In general, some of the potential risks and complications of lung cancer surgery may include:
Reactions to anaesthesia
Damage to a lung, blood vessel, nerve or the heart
Blood clots in the lung or legs
Rarely, some people may not survive the surgery
Recovering from lung cancer surgery typically takes weeks to months and your activity might be limited for at least a month or two.
Finally, in a proportion of patients, surgery may be incomplete and remnants of the tumour are left behind. In such situations, these patient will still require further radiation, resulting in them having to undergo 2 treatments instead of one.
Understanding the difference between Surgery and Radiosurgery
Right-sided lung tumor treated with SABR with complete disappearance of tumor 6 months later
Surgery involves physically cutting through tissue and bone to reach the tumor so as to remove it from the body.
Radiosurgery does not involve any cutting at all. The name was given because after destroying the tumor with high doses of focused radiation, the body automatically removes the dead cells, and the cure rate is as if surgery was done
It is completely painless, bloodless and is done as an outpatient procedure.
Patient does not need to undergo open surgery and does not suffer from operation risks
Using advanced technology, radiosurgery precisely targets tumors painlessly, without the need for open surgery
Is it true that if I have radiotherapy first, surgery will be impossible later?
Moreover, with modern radiotherapy equipment & techniques, radiation oncologists are now able to precisely target the tumour while limiting damage to the surrounding tissues, thus minimizing the risk of complications from subsequent surgery.
It is therefore important to see a sub-specialized radiation oncologist and lung cancer surgeon, who are both confident of managing these situations.
It is not true that having radiation first will make surgery impossible in the future. In fact, in certain lung cancer situations, it is standard protocol to have radiation and/or chemotherapy before surgery, in order to shrink the tumour so it can be completely resected.
Lung SABR vs other Radiation Therapies
Am I eligible for Lung SABR treatment?
Stereotactic Ablative Radiosurgery (SABR) is endorsed in international cancer guidelines as an alternative option to surgery in selected patients groups, such as those with early stage (stage 1 & stage 2) lung cancers, or at high operative risk.
Patients wishing to find out more should consult a radiosurgeon (not thoracic surgeon) who will assess each case, taking into account patient, tumor and technical factors, to determine if SABR is appropriate.
What is the difference between Radiotherapy and Radiosurgery?
What is the difference between Proton Beam Therapy and Radiosurgery?
What are the other treatment options for lung cancer?
Radiosurgery is a non-invasive treatment using precise and intense beams of radiation to target the cancer. It borrows from the term “surgery” as this treatment is considered a form of “bloodless” surgery, where the tumour is destroyed without the need for an operation and its accompanying risks, in just a few outpatient sessions. As radiosurgery involves intense beams of highly focused radiation, advanced radiotherapy machines and sub-specialized expertise are required, and patients must be carefully selected.
Chemotherapy affects both cancer and normal cells and can cause unwanted side effects. New lung cancer drugs called targeted drug therapies help reduce damage to healthy cells by attacking specific abnormalities on the tumour cells that will disrupt their growth and function.
Immunotherapy is one of the newest treatments for lung cancer. Unlike other treatment, it does not attack cancer cells directly but stimulates a person’s immune system to recognise and destroy cells on their own. Such treatments therefore cause fewer side effects and may be more effective.