Pancreatic Cancer

For some patients with pancreatic cancer, radiation may be used after surgery to help prevent the cancer from returning. For pancreatic cancer that involves some of the large blood vessels around the pancreas, radiation may be used prior to surgery to shrink the tumors away from these blood vessels, improving the surgeon’s chances of removing the tumor without leaving cancer cells behind. Backed by leading expertise and clinical research, radiation oncologists at Johns Hopkins use precise radiation techniques and imaging technology to effectively stage and treat patients with pancreatic cancer.

Our Pancreatic Cancer Specialists

Our Pancreatic Cancer Treatments

Our radiation oncologists usually use stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) to treat pancreatic cancer. This technique allows the oncologist to deliver large, condensed doses of radiation during about five treatment sessions. This focused radiation treatment precisely targets the pancreatic tumor while protecting the highly sensitive bowel and stomach. SBRT is often preferred over other radiation techniques for the following reasons:

  1. It is delivered using a treatment schedule that’s more convenient for patients.
  2. It minimizes the time between chemotherapy and surgery.
  3. It may be more effective in treating the tumor.
  4. It causes less scar tissue.

Other external beam radiation techniques that may be used for pancreatic cancer include:

  • Three-dimensional (3-D) conformal radiation therapy – For this technique, imaging scans are used to create a three-dimensional model of the exact shape and size of the tumor. Then multiple radiation beams are aimed at the tumor shape, sparing nearby healthy tissue.
  • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) – IMRT delivers targeted radiation doses to the tumor site, patterned to match the shape of the tumor through modulating the intensity of the radiation beams..
  • Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT) – This uses frequent imaging to display the cancer site, allowing experts to provide highly precise and accurate delivery of the radiation. 
  • Volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT) – Single or multiple radiation beams sweep around the patient, greatly reducing treatment time. Three-dimensional imaging technology aids in the precision of radiation delivery, giving doctors the ability to visualize the tumor at the time of treatment. 
  • Proton Therapy – Proton therapy is a form of targeted radiation treatment that uses energy from positively charged particles called protons. Protons very precisely zero in on tumors, delivering most of their cancer-fighting energy directly to cancer cells while minimizing radiation exposure and damage to neighboring healthy tissue and organs. The therapy reduces the risk of late effects after treatment.