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About radiotherapy

Find out when you might have external radiotherapy to treat gallbladder cancer.

What it is

Radiotherapy uses high energy rays to kill cancer cells. These are a bit like X-rays. But they can kill cancer cells, whilst doing far less damage to normal body tissues.

You cannot feel radiotherapy when you have it, however a course of a few weeks will usually have some side effects.

Radiotherapy after surgery

Radiotherapy after surgery is called adjuvant therapy. Doctors have been researching to see if it can help to stop your cancer from coming back. Small studies have suggested it helps but we need larger studies to know this for sure.

You might have this treatment because:

  • your surgeon thinks there may be cancer cells left behind after your operation
  • cancer cells were found in the lymph nodes your surgeon took out when you had your surgery

You usually have this type of treatment over 4 or 5 weeks, from Monday to Friday. So you will have between 20 and 25 separate treatments.

At the end of your course of treatment you may have a boost of additional radiotherapy. You have this in the same way as your first lot of treatment. You are most likely to have adjuvant therapy as part of a clinical trial.

Radiotherapy for advanced gallbladder cancer

You may have radiotherapy to relieve the symptoms of advanced gallbladder cancer. Or if it isn’t possible to completely remove your cancer with surgery, because it has spread too far. 

The treatment will not cure the cancer, but it may help to shrink it or slow it down. You may hear this being called palliative radiotherapy.

Last reviewed: 
19 Sep 2014
  • External Beam Therapy
    Peter Hoskin
    Oxford University Press, 2012

  • Biliary cancer: ESMO clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow up. 
    Eckel F, Brunner T, Jelic S (2010)
    Annals of Oncology (supplement 5): v65-v69

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