person receives radiation
person receives radiation
person receives radiation

Radiation Therapy for Pancreatic Cancer

Radiation therapy for cancer uses high-energy particles or waves to attack tumor cells. Modern radiation machines employ multiple beams of radiation that are directed at different angles and toward different parts of the body.

This technique is focused on treating the primary tumor while limiting radiation exposure to healthy adjacent tissue. Modern radiation techniques allow for movement in the abdomen while a patient breathes and can better target the tumors during that motion.

Similar to an X-ray, radiation treatment does not cause pain when administered and will not leave patients radioactive. 

Radiation Therapy Side Effects 

Some of the most common side effects of radiation include the following:

  • Skin changes (redness, blistering or peeling)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue.

Radiation Treatment Schedule

Standard radiation therapy is delivered  five days a week for several weeks. Each treatment session takes approximately 15–20 minutes. Often, patients receiving radiation therapy are given an oral chemotherapy on the days of radiation therapy to improve the efficacy of radiation.

In some cases, patients may receive palliative radiation therapy for pancreatic cancer. This treatment is typically given to relieve pain or slow local tumor growth.


Potential New Therapies Help Outsmart Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is challenging to treat. A Johns Hopkins surgeon details the latest treatment breakthroughs.

Research teams around the world are working to uncover novel ways to attack this disease. Every day doctors learn more about how new treatments, such as immunotherapies, could help treat pancreatic cancer more effectively.

Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT)

SBRT is a form of focused radiation used to treat brain and lung tumors. This technique uses high doses of precisely targeted beams of radiation instead of scalpels to cut through tumors and kill cancer cells. Using only one to five treatments, it can be a valuable tool in treating cancer as these targeted beams can reach tumors in patients who do not quality for or choose not to have surgery .

This exciting area of radiation therapy may help advance care for patients with pancreatic cancer. As it only requires up to five days of therapy , compared with five or six weeks of traditional radiation therapy, SBRT is more convenient for patients. Early research suggests that SBRT may be more biologically effective against tumors than traditional radiation therapy and carry a low risk of complications .

SBRT is usually recommended for treating early-stage cancer. Since higher doses of radiation can mean greater toxic side effects to normal tissue, this therapy should only be administered by physicians experienced in its delivery.

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