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Radiotherapy for advanced bile duct cancer

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This page has information about radiotherapy to treat symptoms of advanced bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma). You can find the following information

 

A quick guide to what’s on this page

Radiotherapy to treat advanced bile duct cancer symptoms

Radiotherapy uses high energy rays to kill cancer cells. You can't feel radiotherapy when you have it. You have external radiotherapy from a machine similar to an X-ray machine. It may help to control the symptoms of advanced bile duct cancer by shrinking the cancer or slowing its growth for a time.

Radiotherapy can help to relieve a blockage in the bile duct that is causing jaundice or pain. So it can help you to feel better. It can also treat bile duct cancer that has spread to other areas of the body.  

Occasionally doctors may suggest treatment with chemotherapy and radiotherapy together, to try and shrink the cancer. They call this chemoradiation. It is not a standard treatment for advanced bile duct cancer. We need more research to know how well it works. It can cause more severe side effects than chemotherapy or radiotherapy on their own and can make some people feel very ill.
 

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What radiotherapy is

Radiotherapy uses high energy rays to kill cancer cells. You can't feel radiotherapy when you have it. You have external radiotherapy from a machine similar to an X-ray machine.

 

What radiotherapy can do

Radiotherapy may help to control the symptoms of advanced bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma). It can shrink the cancer or slow its growth for a time. This can help to relieve a blockage in the bile duct that is causing jaundice or pain. So the treatment can help you to feel better, but there is no evidence that it will help you to live longer.

Your doctor may suggest radiotherapy if your cancer has spread to another organ in the body. You have radiotherapy as daily doses called fractions. Your doctor will decide and discuss with you how many fractions you need to have. Treatment to relieve symptoms may be just one fraction or a few fractions.

There is a maximum total dose of radiotherapy you can have to any part of the body. So if you have already had radiotherapy after surgery, you may not be able to have it to that area again.

 

Side effects of radiotherapy

Radiotherapy can cause side effects, including tiredness, diarrhoea, feeling and being sick and skin changes. So radiotherapy is not possible or appropriate for everyone.  There is more detailed information about possible side effects from radiotherapy to the abdomen in our main radiotherapy section.

 

Combining chemotherapy and radiotherapy

Occasionally doctors may suggest treatment with chemotherapy and radiotherapy together, to try and shrink the cancer. They call this chemoradiation. Chemoradiation is not standard treatment for advanced bile duct cancer. We need more research to know how well it works. It can cause more severe side effects than chemotherapy or radiotherapy on their own and can make some people feel very ill.

 

More information about radiotherapy

There is detailed information about radiotherapy for bile duct cancer in this section. There is also general radiotherapy information in our main radiotherapy section.

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Updated: 22 January 2015