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Stereotactic radiosurgery differs from “traditional” surgery in that there is no incision made in the patient. Instead, the patient is first securely fastened (“stereotactic”) using straps or a cage. Next, advanced 3D imaging is used to target many lasers – each at a different angle – at the tumor. Each laser carries a low dosage of radiation and therefore does not harm the tissues it passes through, but when all of the lasers are focused on the tumor, the radiation is powerful enough to damage the cells’ DNA. As a result, the abnormal cells lose the ability to multiply and the tumor is destroyed.
Stereotactic radiosurgery may be performed in a single procedure, but is sometimes performed in multiple sessions. Stereotactic radiosurgery may also be used in conjunction with traditional surgery if a tumor is considerable in size. Due to the accuracy and precision of the technique, stereotactic radiosurgery often carries less risks than traditional surgery and radiation therapy. Possible side effects differ depending on the location of treatment but may include headaches, nausea, vomiting, and hair loss or irritation.