How Does CyberKnife Work?

Though the name may summon images of knives or scalpels, CyberKnife® treatment requires no surgery or sedation. CyberKnife technology delivers pinpoint high-dose radiation to tumors in five or fewer outpatient procedures.

Below is a look at how the CyberKnife’s components work together to treat tumors throughout the body non-surgically.

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 To view CyberKnife treatment overviews for various cancer types, check out our YouTube channel.

This is not intended as medical advice to replace the expertise and judgment of your health care team. It is intended to help you and your family make informed decisions, together with your doctor.

Get to Know: Medical Director Dr. Douglas Widman

Columbus CyberKnife medical director Dr. Douglas Widman is experienced in treating patients using CyberKnife® technology. He is a member of the American Society for Radiation Oncology and has a special interest in stereotactic radiosurgery.

Learn more about his experience since joining Columbus CyberKnife.

What first drew you to radiation oncology?
While I was deciding what type of medicine I wanted to practice, my father-in-law encouraged me to look at the field. He is a retired radiation oncologist and had much experience in the field.

What do you like best about your job?
I enjoy the collaboration involved when treating patients. When facing a cancer diagnosis, patients are ready to listen to what I have to say about their treatment options and their overall prognosis. I think that discussion makes this job different from other types of medicine.

Describe one of your most memorable experiences since you began working at Columbus CyberKnife?
Patients are often excited and relieved when treatment is complete. We had a patient actually kiss the CyberKnife at the completion of his treatment!

What do you feel is the most important thing that Columbus CyberKnife offers?
The CyberKnife offers hope for many patients whose tumors would previously be considered inoperable. I think our center’s ability to help patients and ease their fears is very important.

How do you stay abreast of the latest medical developments?
It definitely takes effort to keep up with the newest information. Along with reading journals and attending meetings, I try to discuss new research with colleagues. Those discussions are often a rewarding way to sort out what is most important.

Watch Dr. Widman and our former patients discuss the CyberKnife treatment process in the video below.

The Multidisciplinary Approach: Role of the Surgeon

When developing treatment plans for patients, our CyberKnife® team uses a multispecialty approach. Experts from various fields, including radiation oncology, medical oncology and surgery, are called on to participate in creating an individualized treatment plan for each patient. This coordinated care approach benefits patients by involving doctors with different perspectives who collaborate to decide on the best course of treatment for each patient.

A surgeon is often a member of the CyberKnife team. Though not directly involved during treatment, the surgeon plays a crucial role in developing a patient’s treatment plan. Surgeons provide input on the most appropriate method to treat a tumor with CyberKnife and identify important structures and anatomy nearby. Using this collaborative method, patients can receive multiple opinions on their diagnosis and important information about their proposed treatment in one visit.

In some cases, CyberKnife can be used as a secondary treatment following surgery. For difficult-to-reach tumors, a surgeon may remove part of the affected area and then turn to CyberKnife to complete treatment. This combined treatment method can minimize the risk of a tumor recurring and reduce radiation exposure to healthy surrounding tissue.

Dr. Robert Gewirtz serves as the neurosurgical medical director at Columbus CyberKnife. Watch his explanation of brain tumor treatment for CyberKnife below.

Profiles in CyberKnife Treatment: Role of the Medical Physicist

At Columbus CyberKnife, medical physicists play a key role in the patient treatment process, working closely with other members of the treatment team to support imaging, treatment planning and quality assurance testing of our CyberKnife® technology and its components.

Our physics team develops a customized treatment plan that will deliver the radiation dose prescribed by each patient’s treating radiation oncologist. Using the CyberKnife treatment planning system, the physicist determines the angles and intensities of the CyberKnife radiation beams that will be delivered during treatment. This process directs the radiation dose precisely to the three-dimensional shape of the tumor being treated, minimizing radiation exposure to surrounding healthy tissue. When treating areas near critical organs or structures, such as the spinal cord, sparing normal tissue is particularly important.

Simeon Hodges serves as our center’s medical physicist and is pictured to the right with our CyberKnife. Watch his live demonstration of the CyberKnife technology below.